Pakistan boost hopes of series win
Sri Lanka’s hopes of levelling the three-match series against Pakistan were dented as they struggled to press home their advantage on day four of the final Test in Sharjah.
After Pakistan had resumed on 282 for six, still 131 runs in arrears, Tillakaratne Dilshan’s side were frustrated by Misbah-ul-Haq, who battled to 89 from 261 balls and helped his side bat through the morning session in reaching 340 all out.
Kumar Sangakkara continued his exceptional form with 51 in Sri Lanka’s second innings and opener Tharanga Paranavitana contributed 66 not out, but the designated away team were unable to accelerate in the manner they would have wished.
By the time bad light brought proceedings to a premature close, they were 237 ahead on 164 for five, with all results still possible heading into the final day.
Things had looked more positive for Sri Lanka this morning as they picked up two early wickets. Paranavitana reacted well to catch Abdur Rehman at first slip after Mahela Jayawardene, stationed to his right, had fumbled the initial chance off Chanaka Welegedera.
Soon after, Umar Gul chipped Rangana Herath to mid-off, but Misbah, who had earlier been dropped by wicketkeeper Kaushal Silva off the same bowler, remained and survived two further let-offs when Angelo Mathews and Paranavitana each failed to take difficult chances at mid-off and square-leg respectively.
After frustrating the bowlers with a combination of dilligent defence and occasional innovation, Misbah looked set to record his fourth Test century.
However, Suraj Randiv denied Pakistan’s captain that landmark, having him caught at backward square-leg by Dilshan after Misbah had top-edged a slog-sweep.
Welegedera bowled Junaid Khan for a duck to complete his first five-wicket haul in Tests and end Pakistan’s innings, but Sri Lanka then lost Dilshan, caught at first slip off Gul, in the first over of their second innings.
Paranavitana and the in-form Sangakkara steadied the ship with a second-wicket stand of 75, but, even though the latter struck sixes in successive overs off Mohammad Hafeez and Rehman, the batting team’s progress was slow.
After a single to long-off had taken Sangakkara to 50, the left-hander then fell in soft fashion when he cut Hafeez straight to Asad Shafiq at point.
Paranavitana was dropped by Azhar Ali in the off-spinner’s next over, before finally finding his feet with two boundaries in three balls off Saeed Ajmal, the first a mighty six over deep midwicket.
With Sri Lanka finally threatening to take charge, Gul struck a key blow by trapping Jayawardene leg before for 20 with one that nipped back sharply.
Ajmal then claimed two wickets in an over late in the day, winning lbw verdicts against Mathews and Silva to keep Pakistan’s hopes of victory alive and leave the game delicately poised heading into the final day.