Pakistanis feast on Lankan invitation
Sri Lankavs Pakistan Second Test at SSC
By Dion Michael
Sri Lankans have an almost legendary reputation for their hospitality but Mahela Jayawardena took that to a new high on Saturday with his gesture to invite the visitors to bat first on a beautiful batting track at the SSC grounds on the opening day of their second test match.
The visiting Pakistanis probably thought that Ramazan had come a little early this time and they celebrated in style reveling in their new found fortune and providing a run feast for the starving fans.
At the end of the dayPakistanhad reached an imposing 334 for 1 with Mohamed Hafeez unbeaten on 172 – a personal best – and Azhar Ali on 92 not out.Sri Lankaleads the three match series 1-0 after registering a comfortable 209 run win in the first test.
Hafeez who batted throughout the day had struck 18 fours and one six whilst Azhar the more circumspect, had just 6 fours in his knock and the pair had added a monumental 256 runs for the second wicket.
When thePakistaninnings began Hafeez seemed to be preoccupied with other things and he let his opening partner Taufeeq Umar take control – maybe after being in charge of the team in the first test he was making a deliberate attempt at stepping back a bit.
Whatever the reason was the tactic certainly worked as Taufeeq breezed along with his own innings and allowed Hafeez to intentionally build his own innings away from the limelight.
Such was his dominance of the session that when Taufeeq was dismissed – caught by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene off Angelo Mathews – he had scored 65 of the opening stand of 78.
Pakistanreached lunch at a steady 94 for 1 but in the two sessions after lunch the second wicket pair who had begun cautiously started to gain in confidence and then turned in a delightful display of batting as they slowly ground their opponents into the SSC turf.
The SSC track is always a batsman’s delight – especially on the first three days – and so winning the toss is almost half the battle won; yet Jayawardena in his own wisdom decided otherwise and instead invited the Pakistanis to bat first.
What on earth was Jayawardena thinking? He knows the SSC wicket like the back of his hand – after all it is his ‘home’ ground. Was he perhaps trying to bridge the seemingly huge divide between the two teams and make the contest a bit more even?
There will be many who see a positive side to Jayawardena’s gesture – they will think he wanted to exploit the little bit of juice that is evident during the first hour at the SSC track. Maybe someone should have whispered to him that he did not have the bowlers who could take advantage of that and indeed that did not seem to be the plan because in another perplexing act the fastest bowler in the side Nuwan Pradeep was not given the new ball.
There will be others who believe that this was the opportunity to put the ‘suspect’ Pakistani batting under pressure – perhaps they need to be reminded that the first test was more about suspect umpiring thanPakistan’s batting. In any case there is no better way of putting pressure on another side than the tried and tested ‘runs on the board’ approach.
Sri Lankawill do well to remember that – thanks to their decision to bowl first – they will have to bat last in the game and they are up against Saeed Ajmal – arguably the best spinner in the game today.
Sri Lankaneeds quick wickets in the morning session today and must hope that there will be a repeat of the familiar Pakistani batting collapse in order to get back into the game.