Sri Lankan bowlers enabled that they remained in contention to win the Test series at Pallekele, as their bowlers hit back after the hosts made 278 in their first innings. Pakistan ended day two at 209 for 9, trailing the hosts by 69 runs, with just a wicket in hand. Pakistan couldn’t have even reached that far had Sarfraz Ahmed, who remained unbeaten on a brilliant counter-attacking 72 from 94 balls. Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep claimed three wickets each for Sri Lanka while Tharinda Kaushal claimed two wickets towards the end of the day’s play, which was again interrupted by rain on numerous occasions.
Resuming at 272 for 8, Sri Lanka’s tail managed to add only six runs to their overnight score. Rahat Ali trapped overnight batsman Tharindu Kaushal plumb in front for 18. In the very next over, Yasir Shah had Nuwan Pradeep lbw, to claim his third five-wicket haul in the series. He became the second visiting bowler after Shane Warne to pick three-five wicket hauls in a series in Sri Lanka.
Pakistan were clearly ahead at that point, but not for long. Dhammika Prasad and Pradeep combined to the visitors on the backfoot. They were 45 for one at one stage, and in spite of half-centuries from Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed had lost eight wickets before crossing the 200 mark. Prasad was quick and accurate like in the last Test, and got the first breakthrough trapping Shan Masood in front of the stumps. After Suranga Lakmal was hit for a few fours, Pradeep was brought in, and struck immediately as, Ahmed Shehzad, trying to leave one, was caught behind.
Younis Khan was looking good with his defence, but the runs were coming and, looking for a quick single, was run out for 3, failing to beat a throw from Kaushal Silva. With wickets falling, Azhar counter-attacked rather uncharacteristically, getting fours at will. Asad Shafiq managed to give him company for a brief while. But, to the first ball after a 20-minute delay, Shafiq was caught in front of the stumps by Prasad. Azhar kept hitting his shots, and Sarfraz Ahmed came in ahead of Misbah-ul-Haq as the skipper was suffering from a groin strain.
Azhar completed his fifty which contained eight fours, but fell to Pradeep immediately after. Skipper Misbah then came in, but did not look comfortable, and his injury did not help his cause. He became another of Pradeep’s victims, also falling lbw. The leg before marathon continued as Kaushal trapped Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali in front. Yasir Shah hung around for a while, but on 18 was undone by a good delivery from Prasad. All this while, Sarfraz continued to take as much strike as he could. He played a fine innings for Pakistan, ensuring that they weren’t far behind Lanka by the end of the day. His aggressive knock made sure, it wasn’t Sri Lanka’s day completely.
--By A Cricket Correspondent