March 2, 2000

Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by two wickets in a thriller

Farhana Ayaz

Rawalpindi, March 1: Sri Lanka carved out a remarkable two-wicket victory over Pakistan on an enthralling final day of the first Test to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series at Pindi Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday.

Romesh Kaluwitharana scored the winning runs in a stubborn ninth wicket partnership of 43 with an injured Arjuna Ranatunga when he edged Waqar Younis to the third man boundary to cap Sri Lanka's fourth win against Pakistan in 22 Tests.

Kaluwitharana finished on an unbeaten 36 off 74 balls while the courageous Ranatunga defied 94 balls to score 29 not out.

The absorbing Test went down to the wire after a Sri Lankan victory looked a mere formality with visiting side reaching tea at 143 for four - 77 away from their target of 220 in the remaining 38 overs.

But the first hour after the interval proved quite sensational.

In the first over, Mahela Jayawardena without adding to his score of 35 in a dramatic fashion. Yousuf Youhana, fielding at short-leg, held a neat catch off Saqlain Mushtaq but umpire Athar Zaidi did not give the batsman out until he consulted his colleague Dave Orchard and TV umpire Siddique Khan. In the next over, Ranatunga, then batting on eight, was struck on the left thumb by a rising delivery from Waqar. Writhing in agony, the former Sri Lankan skipper was forced to retire hurt at 146 for five.

Chaminda Vaas, who batted with disdain while scoring 53 not out in first knock, was needlessly run out in a terrible mix-up with Kaluwitharana.

Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Saeed Anwar's ability to lead a handicapped side - in the absence of strike bowler Wasim Akram and a half-fit Saqlain Mushtaq - was put through a severe examination on Wednesday with only three bowlers at his command.

However, Saeed manoeuvred the limited resources at his disposal quite intelligently and the team backed him up with resilient spirit that was missing on the first three days of this Test.

Pakistan continued to make inroads in the Sri Lankan ranks.

Young all-rounder Abdur Razzaq, for the second time in the match, came perilously close to achieve a hat trick when he claimed two wickets off successive deliveries. Wahajatullah Wasti brought off a spectacular catch in the slips to remove the left-handed Nuwan Zoysa and then a perfect yorker rattled the off stump of Pramodya Wickremasinghe to reduce the tourists to 177 for eight.

Wickremasinghe, who bagged a pair in the match, was replaced by Ranatunga at the crease.

Pakistan could have grabbed an unlikely victory had they held their catches. Waqar failed to grab a Kaluwitharana mistimed shot off Abdur Razzaq at mid-on when Sri Lanka were 172 for six. Saeed failed to run out the same batsman with Sri Lanka still 11 runs away from victory.

Earlier, SriLanka resumed their run chase at 11 for no loss were jolted by the fifth ball departure of Marvan Atapattu.

A rampant Waqar disposed of Atapattu for the second time in the match, in an almost action replay of his first innings dismissal. Atapattu edged an outswinger to the right of first slip where Saqlain Mushtaq hung onto a brilliant two-handed catch.

Next man Russel Arnold survived a very close leg before appeal first ball but umpire Athar Zaidi remained unconvinced. Arnold could have perished had Shahid Afridi been able to pick the ball and throw with the batsman stranded in the middle of the pitch.

However, Arnold (6) survived only 31 minutes before a liftingWaqar delivery took the outer edge of his bat and Saqlain took another sharp catch at first slip.Jayasuriya and the first innings' century-maker Aravindade Silva added 39 runs to carry the total to 73. But just before lunch, Abdur Razzaq had danger man Aravinda (21) flashing at a wide ball and Moin Khan did the rest behind the stumps.

Jayasuriya, who was well-set, and newbatsman Jayawardena survived to take Sri Lanka to 77 for three at lunch.

The Sri Lankan captain and his deputy shared a fourth wicket stand worth 43 runs during which Jayasuriya completed his first half century in seven Tests since taking over the national captaincy off 92 balls in 165 minutes with six fours.

However, shortly afterwards, Jayasuriya (56 off 105 balls in 191 minutes) edged a late outswinger from Abdur Razzaq tofirst slip where Aamir Sohail took a splendid, two-handed catch, low to his right.

Jayasuriya was the only wicket to fall in the second session.

Overall, Sri Lanka's victory their third against Pakistan in Pakistan. On the last tour here in 1995-96, Sri Lanka came from behind to triumph 2-1 success.

This was Pakistan's second consecutive loss atthis ground, having lost by innings to and 99 runs to MarkTaylor's Australians in October 1998.