Mohammad Akram backs Pakistan bowlers after tough day
Mohammad Akram, the Pakistan bowling coach, said he was pleased with the efforts of his bowlers in spite of their performance on the fourth day against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan managed to take just one wicket in the entire day as Sri Lanka scored 420 for 5, stretching their overnight lead of seven runs to 241 by close of play.
"The bowlers did well and gave their 100%," Akram told the media. "Both Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal batted so well. We understand that the pitch still is a good Test wicket to play on and if batsmen persist, they can score well. Our bowlers tried their best and I couldn't ask for more."
Pakistan's bowlers bowled 86.3 overs and had only the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal to show for their efforts. The side used five bowlers and except for Bilawal Bhatti, none of the others conceded runs at more than three an over. Chandimal and Mathews, and later Prasanna Jayawardene, batted sensibly to keep Pakistan at bay. One of the few chances that Pakistan got came in the second over after lunch, when Dinesh Chandimal's edge off Bhatti's bowling flew close to Ahmed Shehzad at second slip.
Akram felt that the bowlers did exactly what was required of them, but said that it was unfortunate Pakistan hadn't managed to get wickets early in the first session.
"We bowled well in every session and each bowler played his part in the partnership, containing runs from one end and attacking from the other," Akram said. "So, on such sort of pitches, we did exactly what was required. We wanted to take quick wickets in the first session but unfortunately we didn't get the edges and chances."
Akram also stressed that the pitch offered no support for the bowlers: "Last-day pitches are normally deterrents (for the batsmen), but I don't see anything for the bowlers, and batsman can still score runs. I didn't see any sign of spin even at the end of the day's play, so if Ajmal didn't get spin here then nobody can. The ball might be skidding a bit, but it is not spinning at all."
Sri Lanka have a lead of 241 over Pakistan and the latter have chased a higher target only three times in Tests. For Akram, the first session will decide the state of play on the final day.
If we can get them all out or they declare their inning in the first session, there is a possibility," Akram said. "Batting on the final day is always tough but we have batsmen who have recently scored well in ODIs and can get the runs here, too."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here