February 27, 2000

Pakistan's woes continue as Sri Lanka seize control

Farhana Ayaz

Rawalpindi, Feb 26: Pakistan continued their poor run with the bat after Sri Lanka dismissed them for a dismal 182 on the opening day of the three-match Test series here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Sri Lanka, who earlier made a clean sweep in the one-day series, seized control of the Test by reaching 58 for two at close of play with Russel Arnold (23) and the old campaigner Aravinda de Silva (10) at the crease.

There was more bleak news for Pakistan when former skipper Wasim Akram left the field with a groin problem after bowling just 2.1 overs. However, a rejuvenated Waqar Younis gave Pakistan early hopes with the prized scalps of the in-form Marvan Atapattu (8) and skipper Sanath Jayasuriya (17) in a fiery opening spell.

Although, 12 wickets fell during the day, the pitch itself was not doing anything extra-ordinary to create panic for the batsmen. It was a slow-paced wicket with occasional uneven bounce. The bowlers, however, gained some assistance from a strong breeze while bowling from the Media Box End. Eight batsmen were dismissed from the end.

Sri Lanka's heroes were pacer Pramodya Wickremasinghe and off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. The pair equally shared eight wickets between them after Jayasuriya called correctly at the toss for the first time against Saeed Anwar on the current tour. The two were well supported by Russel Arnold who picked up four catches - three in the second slips.

Skipper Saeed Anwar who was a doubtful starter - because of stiffness in his shoulder and neck - opened with Wajahatullah Wasti. The duo collected 44 runs in the first hour against the left-arm pace duo of Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa, and Wickremasinghe. But soon after the drinks, things began to go wrong as far as Pakistan were concerned. Three wickets fell in a space of 15 runs.

The departure of Saeed Anwar set the ball rolling for the tourists as Vaas grabbed two wickets in consecutive overs. Saeed Anwar (23 off 49 balls) was caught by Arnold at second slip as he slashed at an away swinger without moving his feet.

Vaas then got rid of Aamir Sohail for a duck with the total on 46, with a fine delivery that moved late and got the edge of the bat on its way to wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana. Wickremasinghe removed a cautious Wasti, who made 17 from 66 balls, with Arnold taking another catch in the slips.

Pakistan needed to regroup at this stage. Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana appeared to have settled down despite some poor running between the wickets. Youhana had a narrow escape when Muralitharan's throw from point missed the non-striker's end by a whisker after Inzamam made a rare right call. However, just when things were looking better for Pakistan, as Inzamam and Youhana carried the score to 125 while adding 66 for the fourth wicket, Youhana got out to an outrageous stroke after making 32. Youhana tried to hit Muralitharan out of the attack but mistimed his drive and was caught at point by Arnold. Youhana's 77-ball innings lasted 88 minutes and included five exquisite fours.

The fall of the fourth wicket brought new Test cap Younis Khan to the crease, who became Pakistan's 158 Test player. Younis survived a close bat and pad chance during a nervous start.

Just before the tea break, Wickremasinghe, who was brought back into the attack, removed a well-set Inzamam at the total of 135. He faced 96 balls for his knock of 44. The final session saw the remaining Pakistani batsmen completely losing their way as the last five wickets crashed for 16 runs.

Wickremasinghe was on a split hat trick when he first trapped Younis Khan (12) off the last ball of his 18th over and then claimed Moin Khan (21) caught behind off the first delivery of his next over. Younis, who faced 55 balls during his 66-minute stay at the crease, hit two boundaries.

Moin looked to be in good nick when he struck three fours in his 28- ball knock in 42 minutes. Without settling down, Wasim Akram had a mighty heave at Muralitharan but only managed to hole out to Vaas at mid-off. All-rounder Abdur Razzaq, having faced 30 balls in scoring nine, also tried a similar stroke only to neatly stumped by Kaluwitharana.

And when Muralitharan had last man Waqar Younis held at slip by ex-Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, Pakistan's innings was wrapped up in 318 minutes. Wickremasinghe finished with impressive figures of four for 37 from 20 overs while Muralitharan was rewarded for accurate bowling with four for 45 and Vaas took two for 54.