Rain could stand in the way of 153 target

Published : 8:47 am  June 29, 2015 | No comments so far |  |  (412) reads | 


Dhammika Prasad (C) celebrates with wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal (L) the wicket of Pakistan cricketer Sarfraz Ahmed (R) during the fourth day of their second test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the P. Sara Oval Cricket Stadium in Colombo. -  AFP    


By Shehan Daniel
Fortune favoured the aggressor as Dhammika Prasad’s timely breakthroughs yesterday put Pakistan in a tail-spin and Sri Lanka back in firm control of the second Test being played at P. Saravanamuttu Oval.

Pakistan’s prospects in the game were resurrected on the third day – they began day four in an excellent position on 171 for one with a six-run deficit, after collapsing in the first innings to 138 – but Prasad’s fourth day fieriness not only saw him take three important wickets but he took them at the most crucial of moments, almost as soon as he was called onto start a spell.

Prasad also struck with the first ball after tea on the previous day to dismiss Ahmed Shehzad, another timely dismissal, before Younis Khan and Azhar Ali took Pakistan to safety.  

Sri Lanka were set a target of 153 to win yesterday with 38 overs in the day remaining, but a heavy shower saw an early end to play, after Pakistan were bowled out for 329.

While they were always in with a chance with Azhar Ali at the crease – who batted like a gnat who just refused to go away – Pakistan didn’t help themselves losing their last seven wickets for 127.

Sri Lanka were unlucky to not make an early breakthrough despite some consistently accurate bowling, particularly from Prasad and Angelo Mathews, as catches fell just short and balls just missed the stumps.

The best of those chances came in the 63rd over – the fourth over of the day – when Prasad drew an edge from Ali, on 68, but wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal opted to leave the catch for the first slip fielder Kumar Sangakkara, who, though reaching it, failed to hold on.

Sri Lanka captain Mathews, who accounted for the wicket of Mohammed Hafeez the previous evening, made the first breakthrough of the day in the 70th over – the eleventh of the day – when he drew an edge from Younis Khan, which flew straight to Chandimal. Khan, playing his 100th Test, was out for 40, ending a stable partnership of 73 that kept Sri Lanka at bay.

Younis’ wicket brought Misbah-ul-Haq to the crease, with ample time for the Pakistan skipper to keep the game in his team’s favour. And so he did for 13 overs, during which he put on 32 runs with Ali. Sri Lanka took the new ball at its first available opportunity, at the end of the 80th over, and Mathews called on Prasad to make the breakthrough. Though he didn’t have success in that over, Prasad struck in his next over hitting Misbah on the knee-roll with the umpire siding with the bowler’s appeals for leg before wicket. Misbah reviewed the decision, which looked plumb in real-time, and was unlucky as the Decision Review showed the ball just clipping the bails, in which case the review system favours the on-field umpires call.

Asad Shafiq, who along with Ali were setting up camp to occupy the crease for as long as possible, took Pakistan to lunch without any further damage, with the visitors effectively 66 for four at that point.

That lead grew but only by 30, before Dushmantha Chameera was rewarded for his efforts – his speed, pace and bounce complemented the accuracy, consistency and aggressiveness of Prasad’s bowling – when Shafiq, on 21, gloved a delivery going down leg side to Chandimal who made no mistake with the catch, ending a 40-run fifth-wicket stand which proved to be the last significant partnership for Pakistan. Ali remained focused to the cause as he brought up his ninth Test century – his fifth against Sri Lanka – two overs after that wicket, and put on a partnership of 27 with Safraz Ahmed.

Mathews then turned to Prasad again for his second spell of the session, and the bowler immediately obliged, albeit largely thanks to the batsman’s poor judgement, when Asad Shafiq chased a ball he shouldn’t have and found the outside edge and was again snapped up by Chandimal, leaving Pakistan reeling on 303 for seven.

In his next over Prasad pressed into the Pakistani wounds when he cleaned up Yasir Shah’s stumps for a duck, leaving him a wicket short of second career five-wicket haul. He thought he had his fifth wicket in the next over when Ali was ruled out leg before, but the batsmen opted to review the call, and to his benefit replays showed that the ball hit the batsman outside off-stump, the reversed decision giving Pakistan temporary hope.

That decision didn’t prove too costly for Sri Lanka though, as Rangana Herath, who has been un-Herath-like in terms of wicket-taking this series, removed the lone-resistant Ali for 117. In a rare lapse of concentration Ali charged down the wicket only to misread the spin and completely miss the ball with his wild swing, to be stumped for 117 – an innings that was not only the build on patience, but also tested the patience of the Sri Lankan bowlers and those watching his innings. He faced 308 balls for his 117.

At 313 for eight, and Wahab Riaz injured, there was little hope for Pakistan as Sri Lanka built momentum, and nine runs later lost their ninth wicket, when Chameera was rewarded for his contributory role yet again, drawing an edge off Junaid Khan for three.

Riaz, who was ruled out of the rest of the series on the first day of the Test with a hairline fracture, attempted a hero mission to perhaps produce, against all odds, an innings that would save his team. He was welcomed by short deliveries directed at his injured arm, and though he withstood pains, his 11-ball attempt was brought to an end when Chameera had him out leg before for 6. Riaz reviewed umpire S Ravi’s decision, but that again provided false hope as replays upheld the umpire’s call.

With a veritable buzz and optimism that Sri Lanka could win the series-levelling match the teams walked off for tea and the change-over but by the time they could resume play rain intervened and the short but heavy shower ended day’s play as early as 3:25 p.m.