Galle: Pakistan’s middle-order staged a fighting comeback from a shaky start to finish Day 2 of the first Test against Sri Lanka on 221-5, trailing by 91 runs on Monday.
After a century by Dhananjaya de Silva helped Sri Lanka post 312 in its first innings, Pakistan slipped to 101-5 in the afternoon session with left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya claiming three scalps on his happy hunting ground.
It looked as if the tourists were going to concede a big first-innings lead but Saud Shakeel and Agha Salman counter-attacked in fine style.
The pair added an unbeaten 120 for the sixth wicket with some entertaining stroke-play. They didn’t allow Sri Lanka’s spinners to settle and put the loose balls away thanks to clever use of the feet.
Both batters were so positive that Pakistan was scoring at a rate of 4.91 an over.
Only 75 overs of the scheduled 98 were possible as rain again played a part, just like it did on Day 1. When play ended early, Shakeel was unbeaten on 69 off 88 deliveries with six fours while Salman ended on 61 not out from 84 balls with six fours and a six.
Sri Lanka tried several bowling changes but was unable to find the breakthrough.
The left-handed Shakeel made his test debut eight months ago but has already become an integral part of the Pakistan side, having struck one hundred and six half-centuries in six Tests.
Earlier, Jayasuriya drew Abdullah Shafique on to the front foot before some extra turn took the outside edge and he was caught at first slip for 19.
The arm ball accounted for captain Babar Azam when he was caught behind off bat and pad for 13, while former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed missed a sweep shot and was adjudged leg before wicket for 17.
Shan Masood fell for 39 and Imam ul-Haq for 1.
“Saud and Agha have made subtle changes to their batting that have helped them to score quickly and put us in a good position,” Masood said.
“We like to play a brand of cricket which helps us to win. Galle is a wicket where one ball has your name on it. When Test matches are moving at a fast rate it is important that you keep pace.”
Jayasuriya, the fastest Sri Lankan to 50 wickets in tests, has now taken 49 in Galle in six tests.
Sri Lanka was bowled out in the last over before lunch after resuming on 242-6.
De Silva stroked his 10th Test hundred, the third against Pakistan and the third in Galle. The Sri Lankan vice-captain faced 214 deliveries and hit 12 fours and three sixes.
“My role as the team’s number six is to take the game deep, batting with the tail if there’s a collapse,” De Silva said. “That’s what happened in this match.
“All three hundreds against Pakistan have come after collapses and I am able to take up that pressure. Overall, I think we were about 100 runs short. If you win the toss and bat first, you should look at scoring big and you should go on and get 400.”
Pace pair Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi, and leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed, took three wickets apiece. But Pakistan’s slow bowlers weren’t as tidy as the quickies, raising questions over whether the tourists would have been better off with an additional paceman.