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2nd Test: Sri Lanka still in driver’s seat at stumps on day-3

Posted on 10 January 2014 by TSL

Sri Lanka were a wicket away from breaking Pakistan after lunch on the third day of the second Test in Dubai, but they could not take it. Having conceded a first-innings lead of 223, and then slumped to 19 for 3 in the second, Pakistan were on the brink. Their old guard dragged them back from it. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq batted with focus and not flash to whittle the deficit below 100 but because of the spectacular top-order failure their job was far from done. Their 113-run association that spanned 41.1 overs, but Sri Lanka were still a wicket away from breaking Pakistan.

The events that unfolded on the morning of the third day showed Pakistan what could have been had their wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed not dropped Angelo Mathews off Rahat Ali the previous evening. The Sri Lanka captain was on 5 at the time, his partnership with Mahela Jayawardene was 12 and their lead was 74. Rahat drew a similar edge from Mathews this morning, before the batsman had added to his overnight score, and Sarfaraz dived to his right to successfully take the catch.

Pakistan went on to dismiss Sri Lanka by taking six wickets for 70 runs in the first session. Between those edges from Mathews, however, he had moved to 42 and his partnership with Mahela had grown to 93, swelling Sri Lanka’s lead towards 200. By the time the visitors were out for 388, 20 minutes before lunch in an extended session, their advantage was such that Pakistan required an escape act similar to what Sri Lanka pulled off to save the Abu Dhabi Test.

Those prospects took a hit in the three overs Sri Lanka bowled before the break, when Rangana Herath got the new ball to rip and bounce sharply away from Ahmed Shehzad’s front-foot prod, grazing the outside edge on its way into Prasanna Jayawardene’s gloves. They trooped off the field a merry bunch, their bowlers beginning to drive home the advantage earned by Mahela’s century.

After lunch Nuwan Pradeep continued the trend of the Sri Lankan quicks gaining more assistance from the pitch than Pakistan’s did, by bowling two deliveries that seamed away just enough to draw edges from Mohammad Hafeez and Khurram Manzoor, giving Prasanna two more catches.

Perhaps it was the change of ball in the 13th over, but there were few alarms thereafter. Misbah joined Younis and the pair went about restoring stability by playing percentage shots. Younis was extremely careful at the start, scoring 2 off 20 balls before playing several fluent off and cover drives against the seamers. Misbah, on 3 off 16, planted his front foot forward and hit Herath with the turn over the long-off boundary, and then went past 3000 runs in Test cricket.

Despite his experience, though, Misbah had a brain fade off the last ball before tea and was lucky to survive. He ran after pushing close on the off side but the bowler Suranga Lakmal had got to the ball quickly and Younis did not respond. Misbah’s sprint to safety would have been in vain had Lakmal directly hit the stumps. He was on 41 at the time.

Younis and Misbah had scored at more than three runs an over before tea, but they added only 47 runs in 21 overs in a final session curtailed by bad light. A feature of their innings was how they played Herath, lunging forward to sweep and driving with the turn through the off side. The batting and its pace appeared homogenous, with Younis reaching his half-century off 109 balls and Misbah getting his off 108. They were the only reason Pakistan were not lost.

Sri Lanka’s position of comfort in this match was largely due to Mahela’s century, during the course of which he passed Steve Waugh to move to No. 8 on the list of highest run-scorers in Tests. He added only 23 to his overnight score of 106 though. With Sri Lanka losing three quick wickets in the morning, Mahela began to pull and chip over the infield and also farm strike. He welcomed Saeed Ajmal with a sweep to the boundary but when he tried to play the reverse in the offspinner’s second over, he missed and was bowled. The dismissal ended a 77.2-over wicket drought for Ajmal.

Pakistan lost Bilawal Bhatti to a hamstring niggle shortly after he bowled Shaminda Eranga, who scored 14 after being dropped on 8 by Hafeez at slip, but the rest of the attack gradually worked its way through the Sri Lankan tail. Pakistan desperately needed to eat into the deficit with most of their wickets intact but their top order failed them, leaving Misbah and Younis to toil for a great escape.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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2nd Test – Day 1: Pakistan bundled out for 165 runs in their 1st innings at Dubai

Posted on 08 January 2014 by TSL

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews made the unprecedented decision to bowl in Dubai – the first time in six Tests a captain had put the opposition in at this venue – and then watched his three frontline fast bowlers consistently test the Pakistan batsmen for scant reward before lunch. They bowled with similar accuracy and skill in the remaining sessions too, but Pakistan's luck and Khurram Manzoor's resolve had withered, and the returns were rich for the visiting side. The rationale behind team selections – both sides decided against a second specialist spinner – at a venue that traditionally favoured spin was not immediately clear. However, as the day wore on, it became apparent that the early seam movement and bounce extracted by Sri Lanka's bowlers was not going to disappear. The deviation was not extravagant, but it was more than enough to pose a constant challenge.

Pakistan 165 Sri Lanka 57/1 (16.0 ov) Sri Lanka trail by 108 runs with 9 wickets remaining in the 1st innings Stumps – Day 1 Pakistan v Sri Lanka Test Series – 2nd Test Test

Pakistan – 165 Khurram Manzoor – 73, Mohammad Hafeez – 21, Bilawal Bhatti – 24 (Bowling:Lakmal 2 for 45; Eranga 2 for 25; Pradeep 3 for 62; Herath 3 for 26)

 

Pakistan opener Manzoor batted with good judgement in the middle of a largely empty stadium but there were jitters at the other end. They made it to lunch on 57 for 1 only because two edges were dropped – one chance causing Mahela Jayawardene to split his webbing and go off the field for the day – and several seaming deliveries beat the outside edge. The crash began early in the second session, though: Pakistan slumped from 78 for 1 to 165 all out, with the Sri Lankan quicks claiming the first seven wickets. Perhaps Mathews had decided to bowl because Pakistan had been routed for 99 the last two times they batted first in Dubai, or because the team batting second had won three out of five Tests at the venue. After Sri Lanka's bowlers had vindicated his decision, his batsmen began to do so as well. With Pakistan's quicks not seaming the ball as much at the start, Sri Lanka's openers added 40 in 11 overs before Dimuth Karunaratne had a marginal lbw upheld against him. Kaushal Silva and Kumar Sangakkara prevented further loss, taking Sri Lanka within 108 runs of a first-innings lead when bad light ended play. The pace of this Test had taken a few quick twists around the lunch break. Pakistan had been cautious all morning but Manzoor and Mohammad Hafeez began the second session aggressively. Manzoor cut twice and edged once to the boundary in the first over after lunch, from Nuwan Pradeep, and Hafeez pulled and cut short balls from the left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. The spurt of runs had taken the second-wicket partnership to 50 when Pradeep, playing his first Test since January 2013, nipped one in off the seam to bowl Hafeez between bat and pad. Pradeep's first wicket, in the morning, had also come via an inswinger that struck Ahmed Shehzad plumb in front. Manzoor carried on, seeing off deliveries from Suranga Lakmal that seamed and bounced, to bring up his sixth half-century after twin failures in the Abu Dhabi Test. He then charged Herath, lofting over the straight boundary for the game's first six.

Pakistan were fragile at the other end, though, and Younis Khan's habit of pushing away from his body at deliveries that shaped away from him eventually resulted in an edge to the keeper, giving Shaminda Eranga his first wicket. Eranga took another with the first ball off his next over, drawing another edge to dismiss Pakistan's captain Misbah-ul-Haq, reducing the innings to 109 for 4. Pradeep and Eranga had provided the breakthroughs while Lakmal, arguably Sri Lanka's best bowler on the day, had gone wicketless. He was soon rewarded with the biggest scalp, when Manzoor's patience thinned and he prodded and edged to give Prasanna Jayawardene his third catch. Lakmal picked up Asad Shafiq before tea too, via a tame chip to cover, and Pakistan had lost four wickets for 20 runs. Sri Lanka made short work of the Pakistan tail in the final session, with Herath picking up the scraps left by the quicks. Resuming on 128 for 6, Pakistan lost their wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed for the addition of only one run. His wicket went to Pradeep, who bowled an accurate outswinger to draw the outside edge to the wicketkeeper. Herath mopped up the rest, completing a clinical and collective performance by Sri Lanka's bowling attack, setting the Test up for their batsmen. Courtesy: George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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1st Test Sri Lanka Vs. Pakistan fizzles out to a tame draw

Posted on 04 January 2014 by TSL

Mohammad Hafeez made the most of his good batting form, and a benign pitch, to score a fluent half-century that helped Pakistan earn a comfortable draw in Abu Dhabi after being set a target of 302 from 67 overs. His 101-run stand with Ahmed Shehzad, in 31 overs, effectively closed the door on Sri Lanka after Suranga Lakmal had provided an early breakthrough. Hafeez was unbeaten on 80 when the teams decided to shake hands, right at the start of the mandatory overs.

Hafeez may have missed out in the first innings after making a confident start, but he was in no mood to cede advantage to the bowlers here. His first boundary was a neat straight drive through mid-off off Lakmal. His second was even better – as Rangana Herath tempted him with a flighted delivery, he responded by stepping out and caressing it through covers. No violence, just placement.

Sri Lanka 204 (Mathews 91, Junaid 5-58) and 480 for 5 dec (Mathews 157*) drew with Pakistan 383 (Younis 136, Misbah 135) and 158 for 2 (Hafeez 80*, Shehzad 55)

That was also an early statement from the batsman against Sri Lanka’s best bowler. Herath, afterall, had been instrumental in sparking a Pakistan collapse while chasing 168 in Galle in 2009. The pitch in Abu Dhabi, though, neutralised the Herath threat, with the grass keeping the soil bound and ensuring it was still a good surface for batting on the fifth day.

As the initial seam movement disappeared, Hafeez comfortably leaned into his drives, kept the strike rotating and ended his 12-innings long wait for a Test half-century with a couple of boundaries off Sachithra Senanayake. A century was there for the taking and that generated some academic interest with the possibilities of a result fading, but it was not to be.

Hafeez’s positivity had an effect on Shehzad, the debutant, too. Shehzad had been circumspect in the first few overs, then dropped the anchor while Hafeez made all the moves, before opening up against Angelo Mathews with an on-the-up drive through the covers. He registered his first half-century off the last ball of the second session, but was trapped lbw by Herath early in the last session. There were no surprises thereafter as Younis Khan and Hafeez saw off the last few overs with ease.

Herath bowled 21 of the 52 overs by Sri Lanka but returned with just one wicket, highlighting the plight of bowlers on a strange pitch that refused to respond. His ineffectiveness mirrored Saeed Ajmal’s, who had gone wicketless in 49 second-innings overs, as only three wickets went down in the last two days.

With the batsmen appearing in no trouble whatsoever, Sri Lanka would have wondered about the timing of their declaration. The focus on the fifth morning was on what approach Sri Lanka would take. They were leading by 241 at the start of the day and with five wickets in hand, were expected to ramp up the rate to give their bowlers enough time to bowl Pakistan out. However, Angelo Mathews and Prasanna Jayawardene didn’t show any urgency for runs and quietly nibbled away at time, scoring at a rate of less than three – only 60 came in 20.3 overs.

Pakistan, who have only once chased down more than 300, weren’t in a rush either. The third new ball was available after 12 overs in the morning session but Misbah-ul-Haq chose to hold it back denying the batsmen a chance to go after the harder ball.

Prasanna Jayawardene marked his return to Test cricket after a year-long gap with his fifth Test half-century. He pulled the first ball he faced from Bilawal Bhatti – a gentle bouncer – to the fine-leg boundary, also registering the century of the partnership. That was his only four of the morning as he scored just 15 runs in 62 balls until the declaration.

Mathews’ first scoring shot was a pull as well, an unconvincing one off Junaid Khan, and he was lucky that the top-edge landed short of the deep square leg fielder. But he followed it up with two boundaries with the same shot off Bhatti, his lesser pace not quite posing the same challenge as Junaid’s. Mathews scored another brace of fours through fine leg in Junaid’s last over of his spell, but then laboured to his 150, only managing to find the boundary two more times. Mathews, despite his reluctance to set the pace, did ensure a remarkable turnaround for Sri Lanka after they had conceded a 179-run first-innings lead.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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1st Test: Sri Lanka lead Pakistan by 7 runs with six wickets in hand at close of 3rd day’s play

Posted on 02 January 2014 by TSL

Sri Lanka 204 and 186 for 4 (Kaushal Silva 81, Kumar Sangakkara 55, Junaid 2-46) lead Pakistan 383 by seven runs.

Sri Lanka did well early on day-3 of the 1st Test by dismissing Pakistan for 383 and restricting them to a lead of 179-runs. Later Bilawal Bhatti and Junaid Khan picked up three wickets late on the third day to put Pakistan in a dominant position at stumps on third day despite Sri Lanka being able to erase the first-innings deficit. Bhatti removed the experienced duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in successive deliveries, while Junaid dismissed the set Kaushal Silva off the last ball of the day to put a win within sights. A 99-run second-wicket stand between Sangakkara and Silva was reviving memories of Sri Lanka's second-innings fightback two years ago when a double-century from Sangakkara helped them wipe off the 314-run deficit and save the Test. It was a similar determined response from Sri Lanka after conceding a 179-rub lead.

Sangakkara was unfazed and Silva was accumulating runs at his own pace, both going past their half-centuries. But just when it seemed that Sri Lanka's fortunes were on the rise, an inspired spell from Bhatti pulled the rugs from underneath. In the last delivery of Bhatti's second over after the last drinks break, Sangakkara was drawn into a drive, but could only edge it as the ball moved away at the last instance. Younis Khan, at first slip, dived to his right and swooped a good low catch. Next over, first ball, Mahela Jayawardene got one that kicked up from a length, hit the shoulder of the bat and lobbed up for the fielder at gully. Unplayable. After restricting Pakistan's first-innings lead to 179, Sri Lanka's top three ensured the new ball did as little damage as possible, adding 71 runs for the loss of Dimuth Karunaratne. It continued the good work started by their bowlers, who picked up Pakistan's remaining six wickets before lunch on the third day.

The openers stayed firm during a testing spell from Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali and Bilawal Bhatti to give Sri Lanka their second solid start in the match. As the score approached 50, Karunaratne was dismissed by a quick delivery from Junaid that sneaked in between the bat and pad to strike the top of off stump. But a patient Kushal Silva, who was good at putting the loose ball away, kept Pakistan's bowlers at bay. With seven sessions remaining in the game, Sri Lanka would look to repeat the success they had in the second innings the last time they played on this ground. The foundation for the fightback was laid by the bowlers in the morning session. The ball was still new and Younis Khan had predicted a difficult first hour at the end of the second day and his concerns were proved correct by the Sri Lanka seamers. Both Suranga Lakmal and Shaminda Eranga, fresh after a night's rest, found the right lengths and repeatedly got the ball to deviate off the pitch to trouble the batsmen. They found some help from the pitch too.

The surface had retained the greenish tinge from the first day, but there were a number of indents, created by the quicks over the last two days, which the two Sri Lankan seamers hit consistently. They started the day with maidens and soon made the first breakthrough when a circumspect Asad Shafiq flicked Lakmal to square leg, where Kaushal Silva took a smart diving catch. He had added only a solitary run to his overnight score of 12. Adnan Akmal didn't last long either as Eranga got one to straighten on him at pace and the batsman could only edge it to gully. Bilawal Bhatti, the debutant, gave Misbah company for 27 runs before perishing against the gentle medium pace of Angelo Mathews as he got a faint edge to the keeper.

 

Dinesh Chandimal is batting on 24 n.o. and has skipper Angelo Mathews as the only recognized batsman to follow with the tail end of batsmen like HAPW Jayawardena, Senanayaka, Herath, Eranga and Lakmal. This is a glorious opportunity for Chandimal and Mathews to carry Sri Lanka through on day-4. If they succeed in staying through with some concentrated batting a draw is likely. However, if they fold it is likly that the game will be over on day-4.

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1st Test: Pakistan in commanding position at stumps – day 2

Posted on 01 January 2014 by TSL

Sri Lanka 204

Pakistan 327/4 (109.0 ov)

Pakistan lead by 123 runs with 6 wickets remaining in the 1st innings Stumps – Day 2

Scorecard

*Misbah-ul-Haq (rhb) 105

Asad Shafiq (rhb) 12 

The two times Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan had batted together against Sri Lanka before, they had added 130 and 100. Today, they improved that stat further with a 218-run stand for the fourth wicket that flattened Sri Lanka after an encouraging start, and gave Pakistan a solid first-innings lead. The partnership came at a crucial juncture when the game was in the balance and ensured Pakistan took a firm grip of the Abu Dhabi Test. During its course, Younis drew level with Javed Miandad by scoring his 23rd century – his sixth against Sri Lanka – while Misbah, unbeaten at the end of the second day, crossed the 100-mark for the fifth time in Tests. Sri Lanka had a 121-run buffer when Pakistan's third wicket fell and with run rate taking a dip just before lunch, a wicket or two would have given Sri Lanka a chance to limit Pakistan. However, just as the lunch interval transformed the Pakistan bowlers on the first day, it had a transformational effect on their batsmen today. Pakistan's two most experienced batsmen had scored 38 in 15.4 overs before lunch in a typically slow and solid manner, but switched gears in the second session to add 130 runs in 33 overs. It pepped up a crawling innings to an energetic rate of 3.17 at tea. Younis served the first statement of intent, punching a length delivery firmly, and in the air, through mid-off in the second over after lunch. Misbah followed suit soon, forcefully driving Sachithra Senanayake through wide mid-on.

Soon Pakistan crossed 150 and Sri Lanka brought Rangana Herath back. It was to no avail as Younis used his feet smartly – either to move forward or to move deep into the crease – to disturb the bowler's lines. At the other end, Suranga Lakmal kept leaking runs: First, he was hit for consecutive boundaries by Misbah, then two overs later, for two more by Younis, the second four bringing up the batsman's half-century. Sri Lanka then followed up with spin at both ends, but that only resulted in more runs as neither spinner was allowed to settle. Pakistan made a quick dash towards the Sri Lankan score of 204 and went past it in the 65th over when Younis launched Herath for a six and four off consecutive deliveries. Younis, who had been keeping pace with Misbah before the strikes, took a lead and zoomed ahead, using the sweep and the cut shot to manoeuvre the ball. Three overs before tea, he carved Herath for another boundary through covers to bring up his century. On a pitch that exposed Sri Lanka's bowling frailties – even Herath appeared bereft of ideas, eroding the little successes they had in the morning session – the new-ball was the last chance to make a comeback, and that finally fetched them Younis' wicket as he chopped a Shaminda Eranga delivery on. Younis, however, played the shot of the day shortly before his dismissal: a length delivery from Eranga was punched through covers, Younis had both his feet in air when he made contact with the ball and they continued to rise after. The shot was all about the force of the body recoil. And some talk about balance. Younis, who has now most runs in the UAE and the second most against Sri Lanka behind Sachin Tendulkar, continued to flourish till he got one from Eranga to cut in from a length and take the inside edge.

Misbah dragged his excellent run of 2013 to the new year and kept the pace up in the first half of his innings, even using the reverse sweep a few times, before shutting shop in the second half. He moved to 50 in 100 balls, then to 70 in 140 balls, but dawdled towards his century taking 101 balls for the last 30 runs. On a benign pitch, however, he remained immoveable. During the early part of his stand with Younis, Misbah remained sprightly, finding boundaries whenever a loose ball came through. He is 41 runs from the 3000-run mark and will eye the landmark as Pakistan look to convert the lead into a match-winning one on the third day. The Sri Lanka bowlers worked hard all day, but in good batting conditions, they lacked bite to trouble the batsmen. Herath, the leader of the pack, toiled tirelessly for 31 overs, but never looked threatening. Senanayake, the other spinner, had a disappointing outing bowling his 18 overs for 66 runs. Sri Lanka had their moments early in the day though. In the first hour of the day, Kaushal Silva had dived full-length and low to his left to pluck a stunning catch to dismiss the in-form Mohammad Hafeez early in the day, while Ahmed Shehzad was forced into playing a tame pull by a perfect bouncer from Eranga. On the third day, the tired Sri Lanka players will have to reproduce some of that spark to limit the damage. Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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