Colombo: Dinesh Chandimal smashed his second half-century of the match to put Sri Lanka in the box seat in the opening Test against Pakistan in Galle on Monday.
The hosts were on 329-9 when bad light stopped play with Sri Lanka finishing day three 333 ahead. Chandimal, who made 76 in the first innings, was batting on 86 with Prabath Jayasuriya on four at the other end.
For them, Oshada Fernando (64) and Kusal Mendis (76) also made significant contribution during their 91-run stand for the third wicket at the Galle International Stadium.
After Sri Lanka resumed on 36-1, Kasun Rajitha could have been dismissed in the first delivery of the day but Babar Azam spilled a catch in the slip.
It did not really matter though as Mohammad Nawaz (5-88) dismissed Rajitha, who had walked in as the nightwatchman on Sunday, in the next over.
Fernando and Mendis scored briskly to consolidate Sri Lanka’s position.
Pakistan claimed five wickets in the second session but they struggled to stem the flow of boundaries.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah (3-122) dismissed Mendis with gem of a delivery that landed way outside the leg stump and spun sharply to beat the bat and hit the top of the off-stump.
Chandimal, who smashed 206 not out in his previous Test against Australia at the same venue, continued to pile on the runs hitting five fours and two sixes in his resolute innings.
With Sri Lanka in a state of emergency, the second and final test against Pakistan, originally scheduled in capital Colombo, will also be played in Galle.
Talking about his performance, all-rounder Nawaz said that his maiden five-wicket haul on return to Tests was a “dream” performance he aimed to repeat. The 28-year-old Nawaz, who played just three Tests for Pakistan in 2016, impressed with his left-arm spin to dent the Sri Lankan top and middle-order in the first match in Galle.
“It’s every bowler’s dream to get a five-for in Test cricket and the same goes for me,” Nawaz told reporters.
“I am very happy and I will keep working hard and repeat this kind of performance again.”
Nawaz made his debut across formats in 2016 but his five-day career came to a halt after just three Tests against West Indies in the UAE.
His white-ball reputation has grown, with 19 One Day Internationals and 30 Twenty20 matches for the national team, but he insists red-ball cricket is what excites him most.
“I kept on playing first-class cricket, obviously played a lot of white-ball international cricket but a Test opportunity didn’t come my way,” Nawaz said of his cricketing journey.
“Focus was to play red-ball cricket, which makes you grow as a player. My 2022 red-ball season at home was good as I made over 700 runs and took 28-29 wickets.
“I’m happy to bowl well on my comeback and hoping to turn up with the bat as well.”
Azam’s Pakistan will need to bowl out Sri Lanka, who were 329-9 at stumps, on the fourth day and then chase an already challenging-looking total.
But Nawaz remains confident of the Pakistan batting that fought back from 87-5 to just four runs short of Sri Lanka’s 222 in the first innings.
“They have put up a good total, looking at the conditions, but it’s not impossible,” he said.
“As a batting unit if we get two-three good partnerships then it will be achievable I think.”