March 8, 2000

Peshawar Test evenly poised after 14 wickets fall

Pakistan's bowlers make up for batting failure

Peshawar, March 7: Pakistan rallied back in to the match through their bowlers after some spineless batting resulted in the loss of their last seven wickets for 45 runs on an eventful third day of the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the Arbab Niaz Stadium here on Tuesday.

Pakistan's middle and lower order batting collapsed so abysmally that a promising score of 154 for three just after lunch became 199 all out in reply to Sri Lanka's first innings 268.

The fall of 14 wickets during the day's play has made this Test evenly poised.

Waqar Younis took two for 22 and received excellent support from Shoaib Akhtar, Arshad Khan and Aamir Sohail, who picked up one wicket apiece, as the tourists finished the day at 129 for five.

Sri Lanka have a cushion of 198 runs lead going into the penultimate day but Pakistan can feel satisfied with their performance in the post-tea session in which they dismissed the five frontline batsmen. They just need to break the partnership between Russel Arnold and Aravinda de Silva which will expose the lower-middle-order and an opportunity to fold the innings earlier than many would have expected when Sri Lanka started their innings after an early tea.

But some horrendous and reckless stroke selection by the Pakistani batsmen nearly put the crucial match beyond their reach when they were bowled out for 199 after being 153 for three at lunch. The saddest part is that none of the batsmen could blame either the pitch or bowling for their downfall.

Saeed Anwar, who top scored with 74, laid the foundation when he showed a rush of blood against Sanath Jayasuriya to be caught by Muttiah Muralitharan at mid-on. Two balls earlier, Saeed had hit his counterpart for a huge six. That shot that brought his dismissal was totally uncalled for from someone as experienced as Saeed who is also the captain of the team and is supposed to lead by example.

Yousuf Youhana chased an outgoing delivery to be caught by Romesh Kaluwitharana. And Shahid Afridi disappointed his fans with yet another display of immaturity and impatience to hit right into the hands of Russel Arnold at cover at a time when Pakistan had just lost Younis Khan because of an error of judgement by English umpire John Hampshire.

Younis was declared caught bat and pad after Muralitharan and close-in fielders had appealed for a leg before.

That decision was the turning point of the day's play as it changed the complexion of the game. Inzamam-ul-Haq, who was batting with Younis at that time, helplessly saw wickets fall from the other end until Pakistan were dismissed 29 minutes before tea.

But Inzamam continued his love affair with this ground by stroking his fourth half century in his five visits.

Inzamam, who reached 90s against Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia here in the last five years, batted brilliantly for his 58 that spanned over 214 minutes. He faced 163 balls and struck seven boundaries and a sweetly time six off Pramodya Wickremasinghe off his toes.

Inzamam needed the luck he required when Tillekeratne Dilshan dropped a regulation catch at cover when the strongly-built batsman was two and Pakistan 89 for two.

The later order batsmen - Abdur Razzaq, Waqar Younis and Arshad Khan - tried to use their pads more than the bat and paid the price when all of them fell to Muralitharan who finished as picked of the Sri Lankan bowlers with four for 77, including three in nine deliveries.

Saeed Anwar's irresponsible shot though took a gloss of a fine innings, it doesn't truly reflect the amount of hard work the left-hander did to graft his innings. He received 191 balls in his four hours of batting. He clobbered nine boundaries and a six.

When the stumps were drawn three over before schedule because of fading light on a day which saw 14 wickets falling, Sri Lanka's last recognized pair of Russel Arnold and Aravinda de Silva were at the crease.

Arnold was looking confident and as solid as a rock while scoring 63. He has been batting for eight minutes over three hours during which he has faced 116 balls and belted 10 excellent boundaries mostly on the on-side.

De Silva, who could only come into bat at No 7 after spending the day in the dressing room because of a twisted ankle, was seven not out.

After Waqar Younis provided Pakistan the much needed early breakthrough by trapping Sanath Jayasuriya in front of the wickets, he returned for his second spell and picked up Mahela Jayawardena in a similar fashion.

Jayawardena's dismissal saw Sri Lanka lose Tillekeratne Dilshan and Romesh Kaluwitharana in a space of five balls.

Arshad Khan, who bowled too many lose deliveries, was rewarded with the prized scalp of last innings top scorer Marvan Atapattu (29).

Aamir Sohail, who had given Saeed Anwar vital breakthroughs, didn't disappoint his opening partner by having Dilshan caught smartly by debutant Atiq-uz-Zaman behind the wickets.