February 28, 2000

Sri Lanka in driving seat after de Silva's century

Farhana Ayaz

Rawalpindi, Feb 27: A masterly century by Aravinda de Silva put Sri Lanka in a commanding position on the second day of the first Test against Pakistan here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Sunday.

De Silva's 112 helped Sri Lanka reach 290 for eight at close of play to take a substantial lead of 108 on the first innings over Pakistan, who mustered 182 - their lowest at home against the tourists on Saturday.

Chaminda Vaas (21) and Nuwan Zoysa (6) held the fort for the tourists at stumps despite Pakistan claiming four wickets in the final session of play.

De Silva, who scored his eighth century against Pakistan and 18th in 80 Tests, played the key role in giving Sri Lanka a decisive advantage over the depleted home side for the rest of this match.

The 34-year-old right-hander, who played a chanceless innings, was given excellent support by former captain Arjuna Ranatunga (49) in a record fifth wicket partnership of 129 after Sri Lanka had slumped to 117 for four shortly before lunch.

There was more depressing news for Pakistan at the start of the second day's play when it was announced that the injured fast bowler Wasim Akram will miss the remainder of the current Test.

Sri Lanka resumed in the morning at 58 for two with the overnight pair Russel Arnold (23) and Aravinda de Silva (10) at the crease.

Pakistan got a lucky break when the left-handed Arnold (26) provided Waqar Younis his third wicket of the innings after an addition of 11 runs when wicket-keeper Moin Khan held an easy catch down the leg side.? However, vice-captain Mahela Jayawardena's arrival at the crease changed the scenario quickly in Sri Lanka's favour. The 23-year-old right-hander played some exquisite strokes to score an attractive 42 off 55 balls.

In fact, the seasoned de Silva became a silent spectator as Jayawardena cracked five boundaries in a fourth wicket stand worth 48 in 57 minutes. The exhilarating partnership came to an end when Jayawardena, sent back by non-striker Aravinda, was ruled run out by TV umpire Siddique Khan after the batsman made a valiant attempt to beat Younis Khan's throw to Moin from point.

It was a close verdict in favour of Pakistan since TV replays from side-on camera was obscured by Moin.

In the same over, without any addition, the hardworking Abdur Razzaq was denied his first Test scalp when Ranatunga fiddled at his third ball but Moin floored an easy chest-high chance.

That missed opportunity cost Pakistan dearly as de Silva and Ranatunga batted throughout the second session to add 76 to Sri Lanka's lunch score of 133.

The two stalwarts, Sri Lanka's leading scorers in Tests, batted in watchful manner to take their side into the lead in a partnership that eclipsed the previous best against Pakistan for the fifth wicket between Ranatunga and Hashan Tillekeratne at Peshawar four years ago.

Ranatunga, who hit four fours in a stay of 212 minutes while facing 159 balls, was finally undone by the second new ball when Abdur Razzaq was rewarded for his lion-hearted efforts.

In fact, Razzaq, who came close to getting a split hat trick, struck twice in successive deliveries. First he bowled Ranatunga of the inside edge and then Romesh Kaluwitharana (0) was adjudged leg-before-wicket by umpire Athar Zaidi. ? De Silva, meanwhile, carried on in an uncharacteristic style, and duly completed his century in 354 minutes off 263 balls with 11 fours with a sharp single.

Off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq secured the prized scalp of de Silva, who played across the line to a straight delivery. De Silva's marathon 276-ball knock lasted 376 minutes and included 12 boundaries.

Waqar finished the day with three for 71, Abdur Razzaq two for 90 and Saqlain two for 78.