Patient Taufeeq puts Pakistan in charge
Pakistan 259 for 1 (Taufeeq 109*, Hafeez 75, Azhar 60*) lead Sri Lanka 197 by 62 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The painstaking efforts of Pakistan's top order put their side in control against a helpless Sri Lankan attack which was remorselessly taken apart on an unresponsive surface, first by the positivity of Mohammad Hafeez and then by the self-denial and accumulation of Taufeeq Umar and Azhar Ali.
After Hafeez had batted with purpose in a productive morning session, Taufeeq and Azhar stonewalled at under two runs an over till tea before displaying some urgency in the final session to leave Sri Lanka deflated in the Abu Dhabi heat. Taufeeq played second fiddle to Hafeez, blocked half-volleys after lunch along with Azhar Ali and displayed refreshing freedom after tea to reach his second century in three Tests. Azhar, mostly bordering on the over-cautious, continued to display the solidity that has marked his short career with another half-century in a partnership which grew to 141 by the end of the day.
Nothing worked for Sri Lanka after their batsmen had collapsed yesterday. Mahela Jayawardene - one of the safest slip fielders around - failed to hold on to the only real chance that Pakistan gave during the day. Azhar, on 7, edged Rangana Herath towards slip but Jayawardene could not grasp the ball as it died in front of him. Towards the end of play, umpire Tony Hill failed to spot a clear inside edge off Taufeeq's bat into the wicketkeeper's gloves when he was on 102.
The tone for Pakistan's dominance was set by Hafeez in the first over of the day bowled by Chanaka Welegedara which went for 10. Sri Lanka would have wanted more from their seamers in the morning, but an in-form Hafeez proved hard to crack on the flat pitch. The heat also restricted the length and effectiveness of the seamers' spells; only Herath consistently troubled the batsmen with clever use of flight and variations, something not reflected in his returns of 33-9-53-1 for the day. Herath beat Hafeez with flight and turn off his third delivery and would have sneaked a carrom ball through him but for a late inside edge.
Hafeez targeted the seamers and eventually broke free against Herath to loft him for a straight six before being trapped in front with an arm ball. Pakistan stalled inexplicably after Hafeez's departure, defending everything and refusing to take charge of a second session they should have dominated. They should have taken the lead before tea but with Azhar remaining stuck on 7 for 43 deliveries at one stage as they scraped 59 runs in 30 overs in the second session.
They seemed to have woken up at the stroke of tea, though, with Azhar taking Suranga Lakmal for consecutive fours. Taufeeq, on 65 off 200 deliveries, came out a changed batsman after tea. He took 35 off his next 59 balls to reach his century with two boundaries and a tuck off Lakmal in the 86th over. The landmark reached, he shut shop for the rest of the day, scoring only nine off his final 37 deliveries. Pakistan still collected 85 off 31 overs after tea, finally attempting to rub in their advantage. The second new ball came and went, almost unnoticed.
At no stage during their partnership were they pretty to watch, but Taufeeq and Azhar will rightly point to the scoreboard, and to Pakistan's position, to show that it was worth the grind.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo