Rangana Herath was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers with figures of 4 for 87 © AFP
Rangana Herath was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers with figures of 5 for 98 © AFP

By Amit Banerjee

Aug 15, 2014

Pakistan reached 244 for the loss of six wickets after 70 overs at the end of play on the second day of the final Test against Sri Lanka at Sinhalese Sports Club at Colombo. Sarfraz Ahmed and Abdur Rehman were at the crease batting at 66 and and 1 respectively. Rangana Herath emerged the pick of the bowlers once again with figures of five for 98.


The day began with Sri Lanka resuming from their overnight score of 261 for eight. The Pakistani seamers, who had displayed some brilliant bowling on the first day to restrict the hosts after a good start, failed to repeat their magic with the ball on the second day as the tail-enders managed to add 59 runs to the scoreboard to take the Lankans to a respectable 320. Chanaka Welegedera contributed to the run-flow with a quickfire 27 from 30 balls including five boundaries.


The start of the Pakistani innings saw Mahela Jayawardene get a Guard-of-Honour at the venue which has been a happy hunting ground for him, having scored 11 out of 34 Test centuries. Pakistan got off to a good start as they started attacking from the word go. Herath was the first to strike for the Lankans. The ball kept crossing the boundary line regularly and Angelo Mathews was left looking at further options in spite of introducing star spinner Herath in the fifth over itself.


The ploy eventually worked though as Herath managed to remove a dangerous-looking Manzoor by came slightly down the track in order to defend a well-flighted delivery, managing to edge it to keeper Niroshan Dickwella instead. The duo of Shehzad and Azhar Ali have the responsibility of sticking to the crease for the rest of the day if they aim to hop into the driver’s seat anytime soon.


The second session was a mixed one which saw Pakistan dominate for the most part. Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali took the Sri Lankan spinners to task by dispatching them all over the ground with ease. At 110 for one, the visitors were looking set for a big score. Herath decided otherwise when he picked his second wicket of the innings and removed a dangerous looking Azhar Ali.


The Pakistanis lost four wickets over the course of 30 runs as Herath ripped through the top and middle-order to leave the visitors tottering at 140 for five, for whom a total of 200 was beginning to look difficult. The dismissals of the experienced pair of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq were additional blows to Pakistan, who were banking on the two to rescue them from the situation. Younis walked into bat with a scintillating 177 at Galle behind him while Misbah has been having a decent form in the recent past.


The divine intervention for Pakistan came in the form of Sarfraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq. The two had been riding on recent success with the bat and had the pressure of being the last recognised pair of batsmen to walk to the crease. The two then went on to add an invaluable 93-run sixth-wicket partnership that steered them into a situation somewhat better than the puddle they were in a while ago. Sarfraz reached his fourth career half-century, his third in this series itself. Shafiq, who has scored 75 in the second innings at Galle, narrowly missed his half-century as he was bowled by another Herath delivery.


With Sarfraz still at the crease and Herath hungry for more, the match can go either way on the third day. While Sarfraz will be seeking support from the lower-order, Herath will be targetting the tail-enders in order to bring the Pakistani innings to a swift end. While Pakistan will be hoping to level the series, Sri Lanka will be looking forward to giving their batting legend Mahela Jayawardene a fitting farewell.


Brief scores:

Pakistan 244 for 6 (Ajmal Shehzad 58, Azhar Ali 32, Sarfraz Ahmed 66*;  Herath 5 for 98) trail Sri Lanka 320 (Upul Tharanga 92, K Silva 41, Angelo Mathews 39; Junaid Khan 5 for 87) by 76 runs.


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(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)