Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Dubai, 3rd day January 10, 2014

Younis, Misbah hold up Sri Lanka

Pakistan 165 (Manzoor 73, Pradeep 3-62, Herath 3-26) and 132 for 3 (Younis 62*, Misbah 53*) trail Sri Lanka 388 (Mahela 129, Silva 95) by 91 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Fernando: Pakistan keep themselves in the game

Sri Lanka were a wicket away from breaking Pakistan after lunch on the third day of the second Test in Dubai, but they could not take it. Having conceded a first-innings lead of 223, and then slumped to 19 for 3 in the second, Pakistan were on the brink. Their old guard dragged them back from it. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq batted with focus and not flash to whittle the deficit below 100 but because of the spectacular top-order failure their job was far from done. Their 113-run association spanned 41.1 overs, but Sri Lanka were still a wicket away from breaking Pakistan.

The events that unfolded on the morning of the third day showed Pakistan what could have been had their wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed not dropped Angelo Mathews off Rahat Ali the previous evening. The Sri Lanka captain was on 5 at the time, his partnership with Mahela Jayawardene was 12 and their lead was 74. Rahat drew a similar edge from Mathews this morning, before the batsman had added to his overnight score, and Sarfaraz dived to his right to successfully take the catch.

Pakistan went on to dismiss Sri Lanka by taking six wickets for 70 runs in the first session. Between those edges from Mathews, however, he had moved to 42 and his partnership with Mahela had grown to 93, swelling Sri Lanka's lead towards 200. By the time the visitors were out for 388, 20 minutes before lunch in an extended session, their advantage was such that Pakistan required an escape act similar to what Sri Lanka pulled off to save the Abu Dhabi Test.

Those prospects took a hit in the three overs Sri Lanka bowled before the break, when Rangana Herath got the new ball to rip and bounce sharply away from Ahmed Shehzad's front-foot prod, grazing the outside edge on its way into Prasanna Jayawardene's gloves. They trooped off the field a merry bunch, their bowlers beginning to drive home the advantage earned by Mahela's century.

After lunch Nuwan Pradeep continued the trend of the Sri Lankan quicks gaining more assistance from the pitch than Pakistan's did, by bowling two deliveries that seamed away just enough to draw edges from Mohammad Hafeez and Khurram Manzoor, giving Prasanna two more catches.

Perhaps it was the change of ball in the 13th over, but there were few alarms thereafter. Misbah joined Younis and the pair went about restoring stability by playing percentage shots. Younis was extremely careful at the start, scoring 2 off 20 balls before playing several fluent off and cover drives against the seamers. Misbah, on 3 off 16, planted his front foot forward and hit Herath with the turn over the long-off boundary, and then went past 3000 runs in Test cricket.

Despite his experience, though, Misbah had a brain fade off the last ball before tea and was lucky to survive. He ran after pushing close on the off side but the bowler Suranga Lakmal had got to the ball quickly and Younis did not respond. Misbah's sprint to safety would have been in vain had Lakmal directly hit the stumps. He was on 41 at the time.

Younis and Misbah had scored at more than three runs an over before tea, but they added only 47 runs in 21 overs in a final session curtailed by bad light. A feature of their innings was how they played Herath, lunging forward to sweep and driving with the turn through the off side. The batting and its pace appeared homogenous, with Younis reaching his half-century off 109 balls and Misbah getting his off 108. They were the only reason Pakistan were not lost.

Sri Lanka's position of comfort in this match was largely due to Mahela's century, during the course of which he passed Steve Waugh to move to No. 8 on the list of highest run-scorers in Tests. He added only 23 to his overnight score of 106 though. With Sri Lanka losing three quick wickets in the morning, Mahela began to pull and chip over the infield and also farm strike. He welcomed Saeed Ajmal with a sweep to the boundary but when he tried to play the reverse in the offspinner's second over, he missed and was bowled. The dismissal ended a 77.2-over wicket drought for Ajmal.

Pakistan lost Bilawal Bhatti to a hamstring niggle shortly after he bowled Shaminda Eranga, who scored 14 after being dropped on 8 by Hafeez at slip, but the rest of the attack gradually worked its way through the Sri Lankan tail. Pakistan desperately needed to eat into the deficit with most of their wickets intact but their top order failed them, leaving Misbah and Younis to toil for a great escape.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo