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By Amit Banerjee
Aug 17, 2014
The Sri Lankan bowlers ripped through the Pakistan top-order in a terrific display of bowling which excelled in both the spin and pace departments that left the tourists reeling at 127 for seven after 40 overs. Pakistan need another 144 runs to win to level the series and their hopes are pinned on the last experienced batsman in the form of Sarfraz Ahmed at the crease.
The day began on an excited note as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara stepped out to bat. The veterans were expected to put up another century partnership, something which they have achieved eighteen times in the past. The SSC was decked in marooon and red, official colours of Nalanda College, Jayawardene’s alma mater. The fans were also praying for a century from Jayawardene to make the dashing batsman’s farewell a memorable one. Both milestones were achieved as the century partnership was brought up in no time and Jayawardene brought up his 50th half-century with a boundary off Ajmal.
The Pakistani bowlers however did not take long to strike back. Saeed Ajmal managed to end the century partnership in the fourth over of the day itself by dismissing Sangakkara, and then sent Jayawardene to join him two overs later. Jayawardene tried to slog Ajmal over mid-on, but ended up misfiring it by sending the ball high in the air and allowing Ahmed Shehzad a tumbling catch at mid-wicket. His final walk back to the pavilion in Test cricket was an emotional one as the entire stadium was on its feet and applauded him for his well-paced innings as well for his contribution to international cricket.
With two new faces at the crease, the visitors had a great opportunity to get themselves back into the game and even get rid of the rest of the Lankan team. Ajmal did manage to strike yet again, this time bowling a brilliant ‘doosra’ outside off-stump that Thirimanne completely missed causing his off stump to get unsettled as the players and umpires left the ground for lunch.
Resuming from the Lunch score of 234 for the loss of five wickets, the hosts had pinned their hopes on their in-form skipper Angelo Mathews and wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella. The two began the post-lunch session with a few good strokes, but parted ways soon as Dickwella was trapped by Wahab Riaz, who dismissed Dilruwan Perera in similar fashion a couple of deliveries later. With Mathews fast losing support from the other side, the tourists were beginning to close in on the Lankan lower-order.
Dhammika Prasad‘s arrival at the crease saw a lot of heat and entertainment on the field. The pacer had earlier sent Junaid Khan to the hospital after he bowled a vicious bouncer that struck Junaid on the helmet grill and had a severe impact on his jaw. Riaz was keen to return the favour and seemed to aim every delivery at his head. The rivalry reached its peak when there was a bit of physical contact involved, to which a fired-up Perera responded with a big six over long-on off Ajmal. The majestic six was unfortunatey followed by Perera getting run-out. Rangana Herath and Welegedera returned to the pavilion soon after as the Lankans were dismissed for 282. Mathews was left unbeaten at 43, missing a well-deserved 19th half-century by seven runs.
Pakistan were wary about the deceitful conditions that helped them dismiss the hosts for a below-par total earlier. The openers were expected to put up a strong opening stand that would help lay the foundation for a comfortable chase. Manzoor however, departed early with Pakistan posting just 17 runs on the board. What followed next was a top-order disaster as Pakistan lost four more batsmen for just 33 runs for the scoreboard to read 50 for five.
A brief glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a 55-run partnership that had somewhat restored hopes of a draw or even a victory. Herath however played spoilsport by dismissing Shafiq, who was starting to look good having hit five boundaries. Abdur Rehman went back to the pavilion shortly after off Perera’s bowling without scoring much for the hosts to need just three wickets to complete a memorable win and a series sweep.
The hosts will hope for a similar track tomorrow and there are chances that Mathews might open his bowling with spin for Herath to clean up the tail without much hassle. The Sri Lankan players and fans will hope for a thumping win and a series sweep over Pakistan to give Jayawardene a perfect retirement gift.
Pakistan 332 and 127 for 7 (Asad Shafiq 32, Sarfraz Ahmed 38; Herath 4 for 46) vs Sri Lanka 320 and 282 (Upul Tharanga 45; Kumar Sangakkara 59, Mahela Jayawardene 54, Angelo Mathews 43; Wahab Riaz 3 for 76, Saeed Ajmal 3 for 89)
(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, traveling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)
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