Needed to show grit and determination from the start of play to not let the game run out of control. Hafeez and Azar Ali found their feet slowly and almost got to lunch. But losing wickets when they really did not was a feature of Pakistan’s play today. And it is the way that they lost a couple of those that will annoy Pakistan. Dilhara Fernando picked up the two most important wickets with two of the worst balls in the game – When you are trying to set a total but also fighting every ball not to self implode as Pakistan often do, that was criminal.
It’s a shame that Sri Lankan’s don’t turn out to test matches. A game that ends on a Thursday is a scheduling joke. Against England SLC ran a test from Monday to Friday. And today it possibly deprived some people the opportunity to see one of the best test innings you could hope to see. Azar Ali is Pakistan’s young, understated star in the making. In two short years he has added a sense of control and solidity to a Pakistani batting line up that is brittle at the best of times. The thing about Ali is that he is there is a hunger for runs and he never seems satisfied and he bats for the team rather than himself. You could see that in his reaction when he got out. It had been a long day and batsmen are often caught in that twilight zone late in the day when your powers of concentration are on the wane. He knew he had let himself down and more important his side. It opened up the gates for a flurry of wickets. But it is because of him that Pakistan are still in the game.
A bit more resistance tomorrow and Pakistan could have something to really put SL under pressure with. 180 is already good. 225 would make it kinky
Days like this are when a test bowling line can be measured. Nothing much happened for a couple of periods in the day but everyone bowled tightly and didn’t give Pakistan any freebies. Fernando picked up the two biggest wickets with two rubbish balls and then another with a good one which probably would have missed. But Herath is the Sri Lankan story of the day. Worked over the two big fish and then pinned Pakistan late as soon as a gap was breached. Kulesekara was steady but is already finding it hard to be penetrative against defensive batting. Perera bowled some good balls. Overall the effort was good and kept Pakistan honest all day.
If Pakistan manage 200-220, Sri Lanka will be nervous. All it needs is a couple of quick wickets. This is Sri Lanka after all
Blue collar moment of the day
Has to go to Herath. Wheeled away for 32 overs. Its almost like watching bowling machine. Its not particularly exciting but he knows how to get Pakistanis out. His arm ball to them is Pakistan’s kryptonite.
Balls of the day
Azar Ali’s century is the sort of century we enjoy. It changed the game and put his side from being on the back foot to possibly being even slightly ahead. He didn’t face the greatest bowlers to have drawn breath but he was competent against both spin and fast (used loosely) bowling. Should learn not to doze off late in the day