March 8, 2002

Sangakkara blasts 230 as Sri Lanka tighten grip

Sri Lanka, powered by a maiden double century from Kumar Sangakkara, mauled the highly over-rated four-man Pakistan pace attack to take an iron grip in the Asian Test Championship final at Gaddafi Stadium Thursday.

Sangakkara, starting the day at 39 in the visitors 94 for one, struck a scintillating 230 - highest individual score by a Sri Lankan against Pakistan - as the tourists replied to home team's modest 234 with 447 for five when curtains were drawn for the second day with four overs still to be bowled.

Pakistan must be thanking the floodlights that came into operation 18 overs before the scheduled close. With the red new cherry in hand, Pakistan picked up Russel Arnold and Sangakkara in a space of four balls to restrict Sri Lankans from posting a much bigger lead.

But the late double strike failed to take the honours away from Sangakkara inspired Sri Lanka who added an impressive 353 in 86 overs Thursday with 212 coming off boundaries.

The left-handed Sangakkara, who reached his fourth career century in style by belting three boundaries in five balls off Shahid Afridi in the final over before lunch, reached his double century by flicking Mohammad Sami off his toes for his 27th boundary.

His high quality and strokeful innings contained 32 boundaries and three sixes from 327 balls. He was dropped on 119 and 182 and then making a narrow escape at 215 when the edge flew between Younis Khan and Rashid Latif, was not the only one to toy with Pakistan's mediocre attack.

Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, who began at 47, scored 88 in a stand of 203 while an elegant Mahela Jayawardena scored 68 in a third wicket partnership of 173 in as many minutes. Arnold joined in the fun and chipped in with a 52-ball 44 after being dropped by Younis Khan when 22. He hit six boundaries and added 71 runs in 72 minutes for the fourth wicket with Sangakkara.

Jayasuriya's innings spiced 14 boundaries from 159 balls while Jayawardena canned eight boundaries and a six in his 174-minute vigil at the crease. If Sangakkara, sixth wicket-keeper to score a double century, was in imperious form and in punishing mood, his cause was helped by poor, purposeless, and wayward bowling by the Pakistanis in overcast conditions.

Pakistan pacers, relying on speed rather than accuracy and trademark swing bowling, bowled short and everywhere except stumps to be ruthlessly hooked, pulled and cut by Sri Lankan batsmen. Ironically, when the bowlers put the ball at the right length, they succeeded.

Jayasuriya was caught at the wicket off Abdul Razzaq, Jayawardena was picked by Inzamam-ul-Haq at the first slip off Mohammad Sami, Sangakkara was smartly held by Younis Khan at first slip off Razzaq and Arnold's furniture was disturbed by Shoaib Akhtar.