Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 4th day January 19, 2014

Sri Lanka move slowly towards strong lead


Sri Lanka 428 for 9 dec (Perera 95, Mathews 91, Sangakkara 52) and 133 for 5 (Mahela 46) lead Pakistan 341 (Shehzad 147, Misbah 63, Herath 5-125, Eranga 4-60) by 220 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

If any thought lingered that Sri Lanka's designs for the match in Sharjah were aggressive, their batting in the third innings provided unequivocal proof they want nothing more than 1-0 from the series. By stumps, Sri Lanka had crawled to 133 for 5 from 71 overs and the barely-breathing run rate of 1.87 was their lowest for any Test innings since 1994, in which they batted at least 50 overs.

Staggeringly, given the run rate, Sri Lanka seemed the only team capable of victory for large parts of the day but, having dismissed Mahela Jayawardene 15 minutes before stumps, Pakistan laid claim to hope, mild though it is. Sri Lanka are 220 ahead with five wickets in hand, but even if they only manage to set a target of 250, the umpires have already set a precedent of allowing the spinners to bowl wide outside the leg stump, which means Sri Lanka are capable of being as defensive in the field as they have been with the bat.

Abdur Rehman provided the only notable excitement in the day, gleaning more from the surface in the middle session than any bowler had so far. In the afternoon, he delivered 13 overs from the Sharjah Cricket Club end, where spinners have preferred to bowl, but unlike Sri Lanka's left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath, he did not target the footmarks at the other end. Instead, Rehman worked off a tight off-stump line to the right-handers, flighting most, skidding some, top-spinning others, and generally beating the edge with more regularity than has so far been seen in the match.

He was rewarded with the scalp of Kumar Sangakkara, who capped a modest series by his standards by playing an injudicious sweep that he failed to control. Sangakkara should, in fact, have been out playing the same shot to the same bowler in the first innings but the umpire did not spot the ball striking glove on that occasion.

Rehman created his second dismissal all on his own. Kaushal Silva had been secure and confident on his way to 36, adapting to the variable bounce in the pitch by moving his feet with assurance. But he eventually pushed forward at a ball pitched on middle from Rehman, that ripped off the surface, beat his edge and took the outside of off stump. Rehman resorted to coming around the wicket later in the day, as Sri Lanka shelved any semblance of positive strokeplay. In the evening, though, Saeed Ajmal became the bigger threat, as Sri Lanka's inaction allowed Pakistan to persist with men around the bat.

But in a match that should already be marketed as a cure for insomnia, the third session, when 33 overs yielded 45 runs, was the dullest by a distance. The cricket might have generated more interested had the runs been delivered via an IV drip.

Leaving everything in the channel a foot and a half outside the off stump had been a hallmark of Jayawardene's hundred in the second Test and, though he was no longer hampered by a stitched up left-hand, he engaged the ploy once more on Sunday. A short ball or a pitched up delivery on leg stump sometimes drew pull or a sweep, but otherwise, he could not be stirred - not even by the prospect of hitting the half-century he had missed out on in the first innings.

He paid the price for his passivity. With Jayawardene on 46 and having failed to score for 15 balls, Ajmal had one take a little more turn from the surface, with an inside edge deflecting to short leg.

The bowling rarely troubled Angelo Mathews and, in turn, he sought not to tax the scorers either. Almost everything Pakistan delivered was met with a dead bat and soft hands, and even when he drove or punched there was not enough conviction in his strokes to beat the field. Pakistan kept two slips to him, and the bowlers attempted various angles of attack, but ponderous scoring rates had not affected him so far in the series and they failed to irk him now. His first 50 balls brought him eight runs, before he was dropped on 9 - the third time in three innings. He did not offer an aggressive shot after that, going to stumps alongside Prasanna Jayawardene at 14 from 99 balls.

In Pakistan's innings, Misbah-ul-Haq had resisted Shaminda Eranga's reverse-swing and Herath's persistence to help carve 50 runs off the deficit, as Herath completed the first five-wicket haul for a spinner in the series. Eranga generated considerable movement to take two wickets in his first two overs, though his dismissal of Mohammad Talha was a further instance of the umpiring inconsistencies that have put Pakistan at a marked disadvantage in the game. The ball was projected to be clipping leg stump, but at least four such appeals had been turned down in Sri Lanka's first innings.

Misbah's initial annoyance at Herath's leg-stump line solidified to disdain, as he attempted to swat the bowler over the leg-side boundary early in each over. He succeeded once and was foiled another time by Eranga, who leapt over the square-leg boundary line to catch the ball then toss it back before he hit the ground.

He farmed the strike so effortlessly off both seamers and slow bowlers that Sri Lanka soon abandoned hope of dismissing him, and placed all nine fielders at the boundary for the first four balls of each over. But even when they came in, Misbah did not miss his chance to steal a single and keep himself on strike. After Talha's dismissal in the 99th over, he faced at least five balls in every over until his own demise in the 108th.

Having crossed 50 for the third time in four innings, Misbah eventually mishit Herath to long-on. Junaid Khan fell the same way in Herath's next over to leave the spinner with 5 for 125.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Max on January 20, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    Yes, it is slow, even negative batting, but SL is 1-0 up so why allow Pakistani's a chance to level at 1-1? All the comments from Pakistani supporters reveal the hope that SL does not play it safe & therefore give the Pakistani's a sniff at a victory.

    To comments about SL sportsmanship, just refer how many ICC Spirit of Cricket awards SL or its players (including Mahela J & when Mahela was captain) have won as against Pakistan (NIL!) or any other test playing Country other than NZ.

  • Sajitha on January 20, 2014, 8:43 GMT

    @Supreet Singh, mate, I'm pretty sure if Sri Lanka were in the state the Pakistan here today's match, your comment will be the same but all "Pakistan" words will be replaced by "Sri Lanka" word...I'm pretty happy and proud our team is ahead of the Pakistan team which managed to defeat SA ( which later beat the India so badly ) on their own soil. But anyway if it calms you down when your team being beaten down by NZ, its ok, keep going...Its funny when we can count how many trophies india achieved, in Sri Lanka vs Pakistan match article...

  • ESPN on January 20, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    Now the game is in Misbah's court. We need aggression to chase the given target because we are not in a position to win the series but aggressive play will help us to level the series. Finally I appreciate Lankans on great comeback after one day series.

  • John on January 20, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    @ Yousufahmed1; I understand your frustration after suffering a heavy defeat in the hand of rank no.8 team yesterday. I also understand that India haven't won an away test in 3 years. What's your away record now ?? 9-0 ?? lol I also remember the test series between India and South Africa in 2001. 6 Indian players were charged with various offences. 5 players for excessive appealing and 1 player for tampering with the ball. You wanna guess who that was. lol As I remember it was Sachin. So, you really wanna talk about Sanga or Mahela or any SL player in that matter? Pls bring it on.

  • Quamar on January 20, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    The possibility of a great, almost miraculous win is set up. Pak will have to bat like they have never batted before in modern times. Shehzad, Mansour Misbah and Younis are the key. They should hold Azhar Ali and possibly Shehzad back in case a draw becomes necessary. Play it like an odi initially. This is how greatness is defined. May have the be creative with the batting order and send in one or two pinch hitters, possibly the wicket keeper or even Ajmal, Talha or Rehman. Come on Misbah prove all your doubters wrong. Have seen no demons in this pitch and they need to make use of the hard ball to get the scoring doing. If the flair players are lost then Azhar, Younis and Misbah will have to try to save the draw...

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    Lot of negative cricket played by Sri Lanka. Thats the main reason, of people not take interest in test cricket.

  • Android on January 20, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    totally happy with the boys for not going for a win:) #smart

  • ESPN on January 20, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    finally thx to Sl they got out now go for win guys and level the series

  • Janaka on January 20, 2014, 8:19 GMT

    Sri Lanka can win! Sri Lanka did exactly what we needed for a 2-0 win, and great job guys! Surely Pakistan will chase this down, and in the process, they may lose wickets, and that's when things become more and more interesting. RR is 5.0, which is tough, but gettable. It's ok even to lose to Pakistan, they are our brothers :) Well done boys!

  • ESPN on January 20, 2014, 8:16 GMT

    wow never seen such a bore match in my lyfe come on Pak

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