Manzoor makes use of lifeline
There are few batsmen in the Pakistan side who can safely be called technically sound, and Khurram Manzoor isn't one of them. He might not have the prettiest technique, but it worked well enough for him to score 73 on a day when barely any of his team-mates managed to put bat on ball. On a day dominated by Sri Lanka's seam attack, Pakistan lost their last eight wickets for 58 runs to be bowled out for 165.
Pakistan's top order has been in transition for ages, and they have tried a number of opening combinations over the years. As one of four openers in this squad, Manzoor himself was facing the axe. Since scoring 146 against South Africa in Abu Dhabi more than three months ago, his visits to the crease in Test cricket before this innings had yielded him scores of 4, 0, 0, 21 and 8. It was expected that Shan Masood would replace Manzoor for this Test. But the team management gave him another chance, and they would have been pleased with the manner in which he grabbed it.
For all that, it wasn't a particularly fluent innings, and didn't entirely answer the questions about his technique that have dogged him right since the time he was dropped after his seventh Test - in Hobart in January 2010 - with a record reading 326 runs at 29.63. He returned, after a gap of nearly four years, and has since scored 373 runs at 33.90 in six Tests in which his fortunes have swung dramatically. In the two-Test series against South Africa, for instance, he followed up a match-winning century in the first Test with a pair in the second.
At the Dubai International Stadium today, Manzoor spent 214 similarly fluctuating minutes at the crease. He oscillated between fluent drives and streaky edges through the slips, and looked shaky even after he had crossed 50.
"It wasn't easy out there. The toss was vital because the pitch is helping seam bowlers," Manzoor said. "The ball was seaming exceptionally and it was tough and this is the reason why we all struggled. Also credit should be given to the Sri Lanka bowlers. I took time and was positive and that's why I got runs and that's all I have been thinking, to stay positive."
Having witnessed batsmen come and go at the other end, he seemed set to get to a hundred, having smacked three successive boundaries off Nuwan Pradeep and a six over mid-on off Rangana Herath. An injudicious poke at an away-going ball from Suranga Lakmal, however, ended his innings at 73.
The innings might not have stalled Sri Lanka's charge, but it should help Manzoor retain his place for the next Test in Sharjah. Beyond that, Manzoor will have to show he can kick on from this knock and produce a sustained run of good scores. He won't want this to become just another spike in a wildly fluctuating career graph.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here