Sri Lanka made to sweat for draw
Sri Lanka survived a scare in the first Test against a resurgent Pakistan, holding out for a face-saving draw on the final day in Karachi.
Pakistan, led by a marathon innings of 313 from captain Younus Khan and complemented by 158 from wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, completed a remarkable turnaround against opponents who had made hay in their first innings on a placid pitch at the National Stadium.
Younus helped his team to a 121-run first innings lead and declared Pakistan's innings closed on 765 for six halfway through the afternoon session on day five.
Paceman Umar Gul and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria then claimed two wickets apiece to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 120 for five in the second innings.
Those strikes raised the possibility of an unlikely win for the hosts, but first innings double centurion Thilan Samaraweera, with 24 not out, ensured Sri Lanka negotiated a draw.
Sri Lanka had reached 144 for five with Samaraweera not out on 24 when Younus called an end to Pakistan’s first Test in 14 months and one which they finished firmly in the ascendancy.
A draw looked the overwhelming favourite at the start of the day, when the focus had centred on the Pakistan captain.
Younus, 306 overnight, had given himself 40 overs to break Brian Lara’s Test record score of 400.
Also in his sights was 337, the highest individual score by a Pakistani Test batsman, held for 51 years by Hanif Mohammad, who famously batted for 970 minutes against West Indies in Barbados.
Younis, who was re-appointed captain just before the start of this Test series, had begun carefully in the morning, accumulating seven runs through singles against paceman Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando.
But Fernando, who had struggled with his line and length right through the match, claimed the prized scalp of the Pakistan skipper when he got one to nip back sharply.
Younus had shaped to defend, but the ball found the gap between bat and pad and rattled the stumps.
Sri Lanka's players, led by captain Mahela Jayawardene, converged on Younus and exchanged handshakes with the batsman as he trudged back to the pavilion. He batted for 768 minutes and faced 568 balls, hitting 27 fours and four sixes.
Younus had added 65 runs with Akmal for the sixth wicket, helping the wicketkeeper-batsman work up some form.
At the fall of Younus, Pakistan were still 48 runs adrift of Sri Lanka's first-innings total, but thereafter Akmal took charge.
He took his side past the visitors' total and then accelerated towards his sixth Test century.
Akmal reached the mark by stepping out to cart part-time off spinner Malinda Warnapura over mid-on for a boundary and got Pakistan past the 700-run mark with another six off Tillakaratne Dilshan.
A maximum off Ajantha Mendis helped him reach 155, his highest score in Test cricket. His previous best was 154.
Arafat, playing in only his second Test, had provided fine support at the other end and had reached his maiden Test half-century when the declaration was enforced.
It left Sri Lanka with a maximum of 42 overs to face, but Gul rocked the top-order with a couple of quick blows.
The fast bowler first dismissed opener Warnapura for two, forcing the left-hander to edge a delivery to Akmal.
He then snared Dilshan, promoted to number four, for just eight, the middle-order batsman attempting a pull only to be caught in the deep by Salman Butt.
In between, opener Tharanga Paranavitana, out for a duck in the first innings, completed a forgettable debut when he was run out by Arafat for nine.
Sri Lanka limped to tea on 54 for three and with a maximum of 32 overs to face in the final session.
Kaneria then made further inroads when he claimed two wickets in quick time. He snapped up the wicket of Jayawardene for 22, having the Sri Lanka skipper caught short-leg by Faisal Iqbal as he attempted to defend.
Kumar Sangakkara, who was caught off a no-ball from Sohail Khan early in his innings, played a belligerent hand but was trapped in front for 65 from 66 balls by Kaneria with Sri Lanka still one run in deficit.
Samaraweera, however, restored some stability and together with Prasanna Jayawardene (seven not out) ensured no further blemish.