Ajmal turns series Pakistan's way
Saeed Ajmal’s five second-innings wickets aided Pakistan’s nine-wicket thrashing of Sri Lanka in Dubai, which put them 1-0 up ahead of the final Test of three in Sharjah, beginning on Thursday.
Ajmal took 5-68 to dismiss Sri Lanka, who had begun the day on 88 for one, for a tortuous 257 in 109.5 overs - underpinned by Tharanga Paranavitana’s 72 and Angelo Mathews’ unbeaten 52.
Set a mere 94, opener Mohammad Hafeez put his foot down to see the nominal hosts to victory with a day to spare courtesy of his 59 not out.
Pakistan started the day strongly, claiming three wickets while restricting Sri Lanka to just 37 runs in the morning session.
In-form Kumar Sangakkara was the first to go for one in addition to his overnight 29, lbw to Abdur Rehman despite playing forward.
Mahela Jayawardene faced 34 balls but never looked settled, missing a sweep at Ajmal to be bowled leg stump, and next over Junaid Khan trapped skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan in front with one that nipped back to leave Sri Lanka 116 for four.
The only bright spot for the tourists was the continued presence of Paranavitana, who resumed this morning on 42 and had crawled onto 64 by the interval.
However, he fell soon after by edging his 239th ball to Younus Khan at slip off Ajmal.
With the run rate well below two an over, Mathews livened up proceedings by hammering Rehman for six over long-on.
But an over later the new ball was taken and with it Junaid drew a mistimed pull from Kaushal Silva - who moments earlier had pulled the same bowler for four to take his side into the lead - which Ajmal clutched at mid-on
Thereafter Mathews and Prasad used the pace of the new ball to up the rate, finding the rope with some regularity, but it only served to emphasise the negativity of Sri Lanka’s approach up to that point.
They added 56 in 13 and a half overs until Rehman snuck one between Prasad’s bat and pad the over after tea to bowl him for 33.
Mathews turned Ajmal to the fine-leg boundary to reach his half-century, but the writing was on the wall.
Ajmal had Rangana Herath caught at cover for 15 and Chanaka Welegedara lbw in the same over, before bowling Suranga Lakmal to wrap up the Sri Lanka innings.
Hafeez began in a hurry with two streaky fours through the gully region in Prasad’s opening over and soon lifted Herath for six over long-off.
Herath bowled Taufeeq Umar off his pads while strangely offering no stroke, but Hafeez and first-innings centurion Azhar Ali kept the runs coming.
Azhar’s slog-sweep off Herath for a maximum was his only boundary in a 72-ball 29 as he and Hafeez eased Pakistan to victory.