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Innings Pakistan 226 (Shafiq 75, Misbah 40, Perera 4-63) v Sri Lanka
Mahela Jayawardene was made to rue his decision to field on an SSC highway, but conditions in Pallekele were markedly different and his seamers, led by Thisara Perera, justified bowling first on a track with some life. The moisture in the pitch, which was under covers before the Test for a while due to rain, and a hint of grass gave Sri Lanka’s attack early encouragement that lasted into the final session, albeit to a much lesser extent than at the start of play.
Only Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq put up any significant resistance as their team-mates were out-thought by Sri Lanka’s bowlers, armed with movement, swing and discipline. Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara stood out for their stamina, bowling spells of nine and 10 overs respectively in the first session, in which the bulk of the damage was inflicted.
The first sign of hope for the seamers appeared in the first ball, when Kulasekara swung one prodigiously and moved it further towards the batsman off the pitch. Perera mostly moved the ball the other way, and bowled fuller, creating more chances. It helped that the Pakistan openers also batted positively, keen to not let go of a scoring chance with the ball playing tricks.
Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar were edgy against deliveries bowled in the channel outside off, but at ease when dealing with those that strayed on the pads. Taufeeq was more fortuitous of the two. Kulasekara attacked with three slips, a gully and a short leg, and removed the option of Taufeeq walking down the track to counter the swing as he had done at the SSC, by having the keeper standing up to the stumps. As he moved it away, Taufeeq flirted with one but was dropped at first slip; and when he tried to close the face, a leading edge cut its way between gully and third slip.
In the eighth over, Perera beat Hafeez with one that held its line before inducing a leading edge when he tried to work it square. Perera had his reward shortly after, as he slipped in a fuller delivery, had Hafeez playing forward and slightly away from his body, not expecting the ball to swing and then dart back in to clean him up through the gate. In his next over, Perera targeted Azhar Ali, rapping him on the pads with an inswinger, then beating him completely with the away-going delivery and having him chasing a wide one next ball to hand a catch to gully.
Kulasekara dislodged Younis Khan in similar fashion, following up an indipper with one in the corridor that prompted Younis to feather a low catch to the keeper. When Taufeeq played down the wrong line, trying to force Perera through midwicket to be trapped in front, an ardous task lay ahead for Misbah and the middle order to rebuild.
Misbah and Shafiq quietly saw off the second hour, reasonably adept against the spin of Rangana Herath and a shorter length bowled by the other two seamers – Dilhara Fernando, on his 17th comeback to the Test side, and Angelo Mathews. Dilhara wasn’t brought on until the 25th over and upon being struck for a boundary first ball, immediately deployed a deep point. Under a good spell of sunshine, the Pakistan pair batted determinedly, leaving several deliveries outside off while at the same time capitalising on width as the swing disappeared and movement receded.
Shafiq drove well but was more confident against the short balls, with Fernando providing a healthy supply, though on occasion slipping in a threatening bouncer to ruffle Misbah. Both batsmen used their feet to Herath, Misbah charging down the wicket twice to dispatch him through midwicket, and Shafiq pinching the singles while also collecting boundaries through point. When Perera returned for a new spell, they opened the face and played the ball down past the slips and gully. Misbah, though,hung his bat out to a much wider delivery that left him, edging a catch to Prasanna Jayawardene after an 85-run stand, giving Perera his best Test figures.
Harsh on width and elegant with balls pitched on the pads, Shafiq scored heavily square of the wicket, the flick and the cut – despite a deep point – producing the bulk of his boundaries. Support was lacking at the other end, however. Adnan Akmal was struck on the ring finger of his left hand by Fernando after warming up with a couple of fours, had to retire hurt and the pain would have been playing on his mind when he returned. He threw his wicket away, bowled off an audacious sweep against Herath, who, too, on occasion, got the ball to bite off the track. One such delivery accounted for Shafiq, who edged behind, and stopped Pakistan’s recovery short of what they had hoped for.