February 29, 2000

Pakistan battling to save Pindi Test

Farhana Ayaz

Rawalpindi, Feb 28: Despite a defiant knock of 84 by skipper Saeed Anwar, Pakistan were battling to avert defeat in the first Test against Sri Lanka here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Monday.

After conceding a first innings lead of 171, Pakistan reached 154 for four in their second innings at close of play on the third day.

Sri Lanka were all out for 363 in their first innings after resuming at their overnight score of 290 for eight.

Yousuf Youhana (6) and nightwatchman Waqar Younis, who is yet to open his account, were at the crease with Pakistan still requiring 17 runs to make Sri Lanka bat again.

Pakistan face a herculean task over the remaining two days to save the match with only six wickets standing on a pitch which has started to turn a little and the bounce uneven at times.

Pakistan injury worries multiplied before they took the field on Monday morning when Saqlain Mushtaq had to be taken to hospital late on Sunday night after suffering from chest congestion and dehydration.

He had fainted in his hotel room on Sunday evening following a gym work-out.

Luck continued to desert Pakistan when they began their second innings shortly before lunch. Pramodya Wickremasinghe plunged full length to his right to bring off a spectacular catch at deep backward square-leg to get rid of opener Wajahatullah Wasti for one in left-arm pacer Nuwan Zoysa's second over.

Three overs before stumps, Saeed Anwar, who played a captain's knock was unlucky to play onto Chaminda Vaas.

Saeed displayed great responsibility during his 280-minute stay at the crease during which faced 219 deliveries and struck 11 fours. The stylish left-hander completed his 22nd Test fifty off 113 balls with the help of six fours.

The Pakistan captain was involved in two useful partnerships. Together with fellow left-hander Aamir Sohail, Saeed put on 63 in 103 minutes for the second wicket.

Sohail (24 off 65 balls with three fours), who was batting sensibly, made the mistake of sweeping across the line against off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and was held at silly point by Mahela Jayawardena.

Saeed and Inzamam-ul-Haq carried the total to 88 for two at tea.

Inzamam, who struck three boundaries off his first 17 deliveries but later bogged down by tight bowling, survived a close leg before appeal off right-arm pacer Wickremasinghe. But after facing 12 more balls, the burly right-hander played a reckless shot and was superbly caught at point substitute fielder Upul Chandana for 20. Inzamam failed to score off the final 27 balls of his innings.

He added 64 runs in 111 minutes for the third wicket with Saeed.

Earlier, poor bowling by Pakistan allowed Sri Lanka to add 63 for the last two wickets. Vaas and fellow left-hander Zoysa took full advantage of short-pitched deliveries to smack 51 for the ninth wicket. Zoysa hit a career-best 26 which included a top-edged hook for six off Waqar Younis.

Vaas reached his third fifty in Tests when he pulled Waqar over deep backward square leg for six. His unbeaten 53 also included eight fours.

Waqar Younis finished with four for 103, Abdur Razzaq two for 99, Saqlain two for 78 while Aamir Sohail, who had last man Muralitharan stumped by Moin Khan, took one for 55.

INTIKHAB CONFIDENT: Coach Intikhab Alam said that Pakistan had enough experience in the remaining batsmen to save the match.

After the third's play of the first Test against Sri Lanka, Intikhab was quick to state that Pakistan will fight till the last to save the match.

The coach maintained that Yousuf Youhana, Younis, Khan, Abdur Razzaq and Moin Khan will be required to play long innings to get Pakistan out of trouble.

Intikhab further said that Wasim Akram, although unfit to bowl, will however bat, besides Saqlain Mushtaq who was stated to be dehydrated and fatigued will also be fit to bat.

He maintained that with the far end of the wicket starting to take turn, and the bounce is keeping low at times, things will become difficult on the last day of the match.

He Intikhab praised the performance of Saeed Anwar saying that the skipper played with great responsibility and stayed at the wicket.