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Pakistan’s Hasan Ali (right) and captain Babar Azam walk back to the pavilion at the end of the first day of play of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle. Image Credit: AFP

Galle: Pakistan reached 24 for two at stumps on day one in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 222 all out in the first Test today.

The visitors trail Sri Lanka by 198 runs with eight wickets in hand at Galle International Stadium.

Having elected to bat first, Sri Lanka’s batting collapsed as they slumped to 133 for eight but the lower order fought back to enable them to get to 222 on a good batting surface.

Sri Lanka was in danger of being shot out for less than 150, but the last two wickets produced 89 runs to salvage some pride.

Dinesh Chandimal, who had a career-best 206 not out earlier this week to inspire Sri Lanka’s innings and 39 run win over Australia, came to the team’s rescue again by top scoring with 76. The former captain added 44 runs for the ninth wicket with Maheesh Theekshana.

Specialist bowlers

The stand was broken when Chandimal was spectacularly caught by Yasir Shah off the bowling of Hasan Ali. Chandimal’s 76 came in 115 deliveries with 10 fours and one six.

“They are playing five specialist bowlers, so every time when someone comes on to bowl, he’s fresh,” Chandimal said of the disciplined Pakistani attack.

“This pitch is something in between what we had got for the first and second Tests against Australia,” he added. “When you have got to 30 or 40, when the ball pitches in certain areas, it’s easier for you to go for your shots. On this wicket, even when you are settled, you can’t play with too much confidence.”

After Chandimal’s dismissal, Theekshana added 45 runs with No. 11 Kasun Rajitha. Theekshana was last man dismissed when he was caught behind. He made 35 off 65 deliveries with four fours and a six. It was the No. 10’s career-best score in first class cricket.

Shaheen Afridi bowled superbly to finish with four for 58. The left-arm quick, who dismissed Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne (1) cheaply, provided the breakthrough when a partnership was building between Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva (14). His pace was too much for Sri Lanka’s batsmen as both Karunaratne and de Silva dragged deliveries onto their stumps.

The very next over after claiming the wicket of de Silva, Shaheen had wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella caught at gully. As the last pair provided stubborn resistance, he was called up again and he broke the stand with the first delivery of his new spell.

Yasir Shah and Hasan Ali finished with two wickets apiece. Leg-spinner Yasir is making a comeback after injuries sidelined him since August last year.

After posting a record total of 554 earlier in the week against Australia at the same venue, Sri Lanka’s batting flopped as they lost four wickets each in the first two sessions before a fine rearguard action by the tail.

During Pakistan’s innings, Sri Lanka got off to a good start as Kasun Rajitha trapped Imam-ul-Haq leg before wicket for two.

Left-arm orthodox spinner Prabath Jayasuriya deceived Abdullah Shafique with a straight one to have him leg before wicket for 13.

Shaheen Afridi told journalists that Pakistan could have kept Sri Lanka below 200.

Economic crisis

“We tried to bowl them out for about 160,” he said. “But that’s the beauty of Test cricket. Chandimal played well. Tail-enders sometimes look like proper batsmen. We tried to knock them off but they (hung) around to make sure that they got to 222.”

The two match series got underway in the southern coastal town of Galle despite Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. There are severe shortages of essential items like fuel, cooking gas and medicine while there are long hours of power cuts throughout the island.

There have been nationwide protests, which forced Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee and resign as president. With Parliament set to meet next week to elect a new president, more protests are expected in the capital Colombo and cricket officials were looking at the possibility of shifting the second test from Colombo to Galle.