Sri Lankan quicks vindicate Mathews' decision
Sri Lanka 57 for 1 trail Pakistan 165 (Manzoor 73, Pradeep 3-62, Herath 3-26) by 108 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews made the unprecedented decision to bowl in Dubai - the first time in six Tests a captain had put the opposition in at this venue - and then watched his three frontline fast bowlers consistently test the Pakistan batsmen for scant reward before lunch. They bowled with similar accuracy and skill in the remaining sessions too, but Pakistan's luck and Khurram Manzoor's resolve had withered, and the returns were rich for the visiting side.
The rationale behind team selections - both sides decided against a second specialist spinner - at a venue that traditionally favoured spin was not immediately clear. However, as the day wore on, it became apparent that the early seam movement and bounce extracted by Sri Lanka's bowlers was not going to disappear. The deviation was not extravagant, but it was more than enough to pose a constant challenge.
Pakistan opener Manzoor batted with good judgement in the middle of a largely empty stadium but there were jitters at the other end. They made it to lunch on 57 for 1 only because two edges were dropped - one chance causing Mahela Jayawardene to split his webbing and go off the field for the day - and several seaming deliveries beat the outside edge. The crash began early in the second session, though: Pakistan slumped from 78 for 1 to 165 all out, with the Sri Lankan quicks claiming the first seven wickets.
Perhaps Mathews had decided to bowl because Pakistan had been routed for 99 the last two times they batted first in Dubai, or because the team batting second had won three out of five Tests at the venue. After Sri Lanka's bowlers had vindicated his decision, his batsmen began to do so as well. With Pakistan's quicks not seaming the ball as much at the start, Sri Lanka's openers added 40 in 11 overs before Dimuth Karunaratne had a marginal lbw upheld against him. Kaushal Silva and Kumar Sangakkara prevented further loss, taking Sri Lanka within 108 runs of a first-innings lead when bad light ended play.
The pace of this Test had taken a few quick twists around the lunch break. Pakistan had been cautious all morning but Manzoor and Mohammad Hafeez began the second session aggressively. Manzoor cut twice and edged once to the boundary in the first over after lunch, from Nuwan Pradeep, and Hafeez pulled and cut short balls from the left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
The spurt of runs had taken the second-wicket partnership to 50 when Pradeep, playing his first Test since January 2013, nipped one in off the seam to bowl Hafeez between bat and pad. Pradeep's first wicket, in the morning, had also come via an inswinger that struck Ahmed Shehzad plumb in front. Manzoor carried on, seeing off deliveries from Suranga Lakmal that seamed and bounced, to bring up his sixth half-century after twin failures in the Abu Dhabi Test. He then charged Herath, lofting over the straight boundary for the game's first six.
Pakistan were fragile at the other end, though, and Younis Khan's habit of pushing away from his body at deliveries that shaped away from him eventually resulted in an edge to the keeper, giving Shaminda Eranga his first wicket. Eranga took another with the first ball off his next over, drawing another edge to dismiss Pakistan's captain Misbah-ul-Haq, reducing the innings to 109 for 4.
Pradeep and Eranga had provided the breakthroughs while Lakmal, arguably Sri Lanka's best bowler on the day, had gone wicketless. He was soon rewarded with the biggest scalp, when Manzoor's patience thinned and he prodded and edged to give Prasanna Jayawardene his third catch. Lakmal picked up Asad Shafiq before tea too, via a tame chip to cover, and Pakistan had lost four wickets for 20 runs.
Sri Lanka made short work of the Pakistan tail in the final session, with Herath picking up the scraps left by the quicks. Resuming on 128 for 6, Pakistan lost their wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed for the addition of only one run. His wicket went to Pradeep, who bowled an accurate outswinger to draw the outside edge to the wicketkeeper. Herath mopped up the rest, completing a clinical and collective performance by Sri Lanka's bowling attack, setting the Test up for their batsmen.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo