Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Dubai, 2nd day January 9, 2014

Mahela hundred strengthens Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka 318 for 4 (Mahela 106*, Silva 95) lead Pakistan 165 (Manzoor 73, Pradeep 3-62, Herath 3-26) by 153 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Mahela Jayawardene and Kaushal Silva did not put on a show - there weren't many people at the stadium to entertain anyway - but their exercise in restraint, self-preservation and gradual accumulation was exactly what Sri Lanka needed to consolidate the advantage earned by their fast bowlers on the first day. Silva fell five short of a maiden century and Jayawardene left his sublime shots on the shelf until the final session, when he was his usual hard-to-contain self and reached his first hundred in ten Tests to give Sri Lanka a strong chance of a series lead.

Pakistan's fast bowlers did not err too much in their line and length, but the sizeable seam movement that had played a prominent role in undoing their batsmen was nowhere to be seen on the second day. Saeed Ajmal operated with parsimony, but Pakistan needed incisiveness to defend their total of 165, and his spell of 27-9-45-0 extended his wicket drought to 76 overs. Sri Lanka had lost two batsmen to injudicious shots early in the first session to slip to 88 for 3, but Silva and Mahela applied themselves to produce a 139-run stand that spanned 51.2 overs and ended only after tea.

Mahela's pace was Sri Lanka's pace today. He scored 19 off 49 balls in the first session; Sri Lanka made 75. Between lunch and tea, Mahela added 31 off 85; Sri Lanka's total grew by 83. And in the final session, against the second new ball, Mahela took 56 off 96 to help Sri Lanka score 103. The split webbing he had suffered while fielding at slip did not seem to hinder him and Mahela got to his century late in the day by square cutting Bilawal Bhatti, the debutant who had dismissed him twice in the Abu Dhabi Test, to the boundary.

The gains Sri Lanka made after tea were a result wearing Pakistan down over the first two sessions. The unbroken 91-run stand for the fifth wicket between Mahela and Angelo Mathews would not have happened had Sarfaraz Ahmed not dropped the Sri Lanka captain on 5, diving to his right with one hand when he could have got to the ball with both. Mathews scored briskly after that, finishing the day on 42 at a strike rate of 50.

Their position at stumps - 318 for 4 and ahead by 153 - was as good as Sri Lanka could have expected when they began the day on 57 for 1. But they so nearly tripped. After three early boundaries, Kumar Sangakkara leaned across to flick a delivery that angled into him from Rahat Ali and fell over to be lbw. Dinesh Chandimal came in ahead of Mahela but did not bat with the composure that had helped Sri Lanka save the first Test. Junaid Khan sent down a bouncer that was above eye level, Chandimal hooked instinctively and was caught by Rahat at long leg. He had been dismissed in exactly the same fashion in the second innings in Abu Dhabi.

Unlike Pakistan, however, Sri Lanka's stumble ended there. Silva and Mahela defended competently and left well outside off, while also putting away loose balls. Mahela played the shot of the morning when he got down on one knee and slog-swept Ajmal to the midwicket boundary. Those were the only runs Ajmal conceded in his first five overs and his day got steadily worse.

Early in the second session, Silva pulled Ajmal to the boundary to bring up his fifty off 133 balls. The afternoon, however, contained a few moments of uncertainty for Sri Lanka. An uppish flick from Silva fell just short of Khurram Manzoor at square leg, Mahela was beaten by the odd doosra from Ajmal and then successfully overturned an lbw decision against Rahat because the ball had pitched marginally outside leg stump.

Those deliveries were memorable because there were so few of them and soon Silva cut and drove Rahat for two boundaries in three deliveries to move into the 70s. Shortly before the tea break though, Misbah-ul-Haq gave Mohammad Hafeez a bowl for the first time and Mahela took a risk. He charged and tried to loft down the ground and Pakistan watched as the mis-hit fell agonisingly out of reach of the fielder running back from long-on.

It was Hafeez who denied Silva his hundred soon after tea, when the opener swept and was hit on the pad and given lbw. He chose to review, perhaps because he was so close to a major landmark, but replays confirmed the umpire's decision. Hafeez had struck in his fourth over, while Ajmal had been wicketless all day.

Sri Lanka's lead was only 65 when Silva fell, and given the long tail, Pakistan had the chance to limit damage if they took a couple of quick wickets. Rahat drew the edge from Mathews, but Sarfaraz grassed the ball. There were no more opportunities for Misbah's men.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo