March 7, 2000

Fiery Shoaib rocks Sri Lankan batting with 5 for 75

Peshawar, March 6: Speed merchant Shoaib Akhtar bowled with fire, hostility and venom to place Pakistan in a position of strength against Sri Lanka at stumps on the second day of the second cricket Test at the Arbab Niaz Stadium here on Monday.

The 25-year-old from Rawalpindi fired on all cylinders after Waqar Younis was ruled out of action because of a back problem. He finished with impressive figures of five for 75 on a track which had nothing much for the fast bowlers.

Shoaib's superlative performance saw Sri Lanka being bowled out for 268 after having taken lunch at 179 for three. Pakistan consolidated their position by reaching 67 for the loss of one wicket when stumps were drawn for the day.

Pakistan captain Saeed Anwar survived a very confident caught behind appeal off Muttiah Muralitharan to remain unbeaten on 37. His innings is spiced with seven excellent boundaries. With him was Yousuf Youhana who was promoted to the No 3 slot to allow Aamir Sohail revert back to his original opening spot.

Aamir, who was looking good, fell victim to the part-time off-spin of Mahela Jayawardena after scoring 22 off 62 balls.

ShoaibAkhtar, who took his second five-wicket haul in 14 Tests, ripped the heart out of the Sri Lanka middle-order by claiming three wickets in a fiery third spell of 6-0-23-3.

Sri Lankan top scorer Marvan Atapattu was also amongst Shoaib's victims when the 30-year-old from Kalutara failed to keep a short-pitched delivery away from the stumps and dragged it on after scoring a cautious 75.

The express fast bowler also accounted for Romesh Kaluwitharana, brilliantly caught by debutant wicket-keeper Atiq-uz-Zaman down the leg side, Pramodya Wickremasinghe, who fell for his third successive duck in the series, and Muttiah Muralitharan.

But Muralitharan celebrated his 50th Test in style by smashing three boundaries and a pulled six off Abdur Razzaq in his enterprising 13-ball 22 as Sri Lanka garnered an invaluable 45 runs for the last two wickets.

Interestingly, four out of five Shoaib's victims found their stumps castled which speaks volumes of the fast bowler's controlled accuracy along with some real quick stuff.

It was chiefly because of Shoaib Akhtar's brilliant performance that Pakistan came back strongly in the Test by claiming the last seven Sri Lankan wickets for 82 runs after the tourists had resumed this morning at 88 for two.

The Pakistan captain, anticipating moisture in the wicket and deceived by green patches on the centre of the pitch, had decided to field on Sunday evening after the match had started four hours late because of overnight rain. However, the wicket turned out to be batsmen's friendly.

Shoaib was also playing his first match after recovering from a groin injury which had sidelined him from the Lahore one-dayer and Rawalpindi Test which Sri Lanka won by two wickets to go 1-0 up in the three-Test rubber. But barring a foot nail problem on Monday, he appeared fully recovered and is in top physical shape.

Atapattu, who had two poor innings in the Rawalpindi Test after a fantastic one-day series, was a model of concentration and application. He occupied the crease for 348 minutes. He faced 254 balls and converted seven of them into sweetly-timed boundaries.

He showed excellent footwork and played the ball on its merit. He concentrated more in nudging and pushing the ball around but didn't spare an opportunity to punish anything lose.

Atapattu was associated in two useful partnerships.

For the third wicket with Aravinda de Silva, he added 64 runs. De Silva, who started the day at 18, was adjudged leg before by Englishman John Hampshire off Aamir Sohail when he failed to read an arm ball.

For the fourth wicket, Atapattu put on 65 runs with Mahela Jayawardena who threw away his wicket by playing an irresponsible shot. He tried to hit Aamir Sohail's flighted delivery over Shahid Afridi's head who was fielding at cover. But he failed to get the required elevation as the crowd favourite jumped in the air to take a good catch but not a difficult one.

Aamir Sohail bowled to a teasing line and length to finish with two for 24. Abdur Razzaq, whose figures were spoiled by Muralitharan ended up with two for 39 while Arshad Khan was not truly rewarded for his 45 overs in which he conceded 70 runs and picked up the wicket of Tillekeratne Dilshan by beating the newcomer in the air.