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Shehzad, Azhar lead spirited fight-back

  • Sri Lanka vs Pakistan Second Test – P Sara Stadium

By Dion Michael

Ahmed Shehzad (69) and Azhar Ali (64 not out) led a spirited fight-back by Pakistan on the third day of the second test against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Stadium in Colombo yesterday.

The pair shared a second wicket partnership of 120 to lift Pakistan to 171 for two wickets – just six runs short of wiping off their first innings deficit of 177 – at the close of another day shortened by rain and bad light. At the wickets with Azhar was Younis Khan who was unbeaten on 23 in his 100th test match.

When play resumed this morning after a 30-minute delay, due to a brief spell of rain, Pakistan needed just 3.1 overs and 15 minutes to take the final Sri Lankan wicket, and Yasir Shah did the honours to finish with another handsome return of 6 for 96.

After claiming the last Sri Lankan wicket early in the morning and leaving the hosts with a handy lead of 177, Pakistan needed a disciplined batting display from their top order to stay in the game.

They were off to the worst possible start when Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews opening the attack with Dhammika Prasad, had Mohamed Hafeez edging to Kumar Sangakkara in only his second over to leave the visitors on nine for one.

Azhar Ali joined Shehzad at the wicket and the pair set out to repair the innings with some disciplined batting. They began watchfully and as they settled down the strokes became more fluent and the duo used their feet to counter the all-spin attack from left armer Ranganana Herath and Off spinner Tharindu Kaushal.

Both batsmen seemed comfortable against Herath and it was Kaushal who looked more likely to breakthrough. The closest the hosts came to claiming a wicket was in the second over after lunch when Shehzad danced down the track only to misread a drifter from Herath and get rapped on the pads. The appeal for LBW was turned down and the Lankans immediately opted for a review which then indicted a slight inside edge had saved the batsman.

The second wicket pair went in for lunch with Pakistan on 62 for 1 and then continued relatively untroubled in the post-lunch session as they added a further 67 runs without being separated – marking the first time in the series that either team went through an entire session without losing a wicket.

Mathews kept changing his bowlers around often and used them in short spells constantly using a mixture of pace and spin from the two ends. What was most puzzling though was the strange reluctance of the captain to bowl himself. Mathews had by far the best figures of all the bowlers with one wicket for just five runs off five overs – three of which were maidens.

The second wicket stand was finally broken in the very first ball after the tea interval when Prasad found the edge of Shehzad’s bat and wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal grabbed the chance gleefully.

There was an immediate increase of intensity on the field as the hosts pressed hard for another scalp. The chattering of the close in fielders increased as the two Sri Lankan spinners tested both batsmen.

However, Azhar and Younis Khan were unmoved and slowly ground out 32 runs in an unbroken liaison for the third wicket when bad light brought an early end to an absorbing day’s cricket.

The first session today (Sunday) will be most interesting as both sides will press hard to gain an early advantage. Pakistan will hope that their batsmen continue the good work and build a challenging total whilst the hosts will be looking for some quick wickets and wrap the game up.

 

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