Pakistan powered to within 120 runs for victory making 222 for 3 chasing 342 following an unbeaten 112 by opening batsman Abdullah Shafique and 55 by skipper Babar Azam on an eventful penultimate day of the first Test of the World Test Championship against Sri Lanka on an unpredictable Galle International Stadium track. Pakistan’s run surge closer to victory was built on a solid 87-run first wicket partnership between Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq who made 30 after Sri Lanka had been dismissed for 337 with the last pair adding 7 that left Dinesh Chandimal stranded on 94 six short of a deserving century.
Pakistan’s thrust towards victory followed some close calls. That was when Shafique survived a leg before wicket decision to a delivery by Prabath Jayasuriya that the third umpire held in favour of the head umpire’s not out decision on the basis that the ball would have nicked half of the leg stump. In the very next over a LBW review against Imam-ul-Haq by the Lankans off the bowling of Kasun Rajitha was also overturned. They did see the back of Rizwan when wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella executed a brilliant stumping off Ramesh Mendis. Sri Lanka struck 17 runs later when Prabath Jayasuriya sent back Azhar Ali for 6 caught by Dhananjaya de Silva as Pakistan’s second wicket fell for 104 to the first ball of the 40th over.
However, the advent of skipper Babar Azam saw Pakistan edge closer to the target on a solid 101-run third-wicket partnership between him and Shafique. When Azam was bowled by Jayasuriya with the s core 205 by the fifth ball of the 79th over Pakistan was close to getting home with a further 137 required. Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan on 7 off. 12 closed the day on 222 Pakistan looked well insulated to going the final distance on the fifth day.
But Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne and his team would have carried a back to the pavilion a whiff of hope the hitherto unhelpful Galle track seemed to raise in the last 10 overs of the day that generated turn for Jayasuriya to exploit.
Of course, the centre piece to Pakistan’s final thrust would be Abdullah Shafique whose stonewalling unbeaten ton off 289 balls containing a sparse 5 boundaries and a six has been solid stuff.
CHIEF SCORES: Sri Lanka 222 And 337 (100 Overs) (Dinesh Chandimal n.o. 94, Kusal Mendis 76, Oshada Fernando 64) Pakistan 218 (Babar Azam 119) And 222/3 (85 Overs) (Abdullah Shafique n.o. 112, Babar Azam 55, Imam-ul-Haq 30, Mohammad Rizwan n.o. 7, Prabath Jayasuriya 2/89, Ramesh Mendis 1/75).