Jayasuriya leads Sri Lanka's fightback
Close Sri Lanka 208 and 134 for 1 (Jayasuriya 97*, Sangakkara 3*) trail Pakistan 478 (Inzamam 117) by 136 runs
It was a pity the stadium was nearly empty. With a large deficit to erase, and the possibility of a defeat looming, Sanath Jayasuriya launched into Abdul Razzaq and Co. with an attack so astonishing, the proceedings looked like a highlights package. His 97 runs came in a session that captured the joie de vivre of Sri Lanka's batting, and established the belief that the pitch was fast losing all life. Sri Lanka ended the day on 134 for 1, still trailing Pakistan's total of 478 by 136 runs.
With every boundary, Pakistan's chances of an easy victory grew dimmer. Jayasuriya was in murderous touch, and the force of his shots made the bowling look dainty. He pulled his first ball for four, and proceeded to hit every shot thereafter as hard as he could. Nothing could hold him back as he played with the freedom of his immediate post-World Cup victory days. Most of his shots were clean hits, well thought-out and emphatically executed. The plunder had been planned to wrench the advantage back from Pakistan, and even though Marvan Atapattu fell late in the day, it worked to perfection.
Up until then, Pakistan had embarrassed Sri Lanka for six consecutive sessions, but now they were eager to right the wrongs of the first day, when they batted with the confidence of champions and the footwork of amateurs. Today, led by Chaminda Vaas, the bowling was spot-on. They pitched it up and let the wicket do the rest. Wickets trickled through initially, and then began to flow. Then the batsmen took over and played with abandon. After the mauling they had taken from Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Imran Farhat, the fightback was to Sri Lanka's great credit.
Unbeaten on 79 yesterday, Inzamam progressed to his 20th Test hundred before falling to Vaas for an excellent 117. He had been in the thick of things right up until lunch, and handled the bowlers in an unflustered manner. Vaas, as ever, hit the right length and made the ball swing into him, but Inzamam was mostly assured in his strokeplay. He stuttered once or twice, and was dropped at slip off a tentative poke, but otherwise, his hundred was faultless. It was a measured innings by a man hell-bent on grinding the opposition down.
Inzamam had hung about while Yousuf Youhana cut and pulled boundaries, riding his luck like a gambler at the tables. Luck had not been with Sri Lanka at that point - close lbw decisions were turned down by Steve Bucknor and Billy Bowden, Youhana might have run himself out, but for a terrible throw, and a mishook sailed over fine leg despite two men being posted there for just that shot. It was one of those mornings for Sri Lanka.
But then after lunch, Vaas dismissed Inzamam and the side was infused with new belief. Yet more runs flowed from Shoaib Malik's and Abdul Razzaq's bat, as they drove time and time again, to add 50 priceless runs together. But then Razzaq miscued, and the team folded for 478 a little while afterwards.
A lead of 270 should have been more than enough for Pakistan's peace of mind, but Jayasuriya's assault changed the parameters of what a good lead should be, and gave Sri Lanka a shot at saving this game. Pakistan will need wickets early tomorrow, especially Jayasuriya's, if they are to get close to levelling the series.