Talha, Junaid shine on dull day
Pakistan bowlers may have started the second day optimistic about their chances of ending Sri Lanka's resistance but had little success as the visitors reached an imposing 428 for 9. While Pakistan's bowlers contained the Sri Lanka batsmen well - conceding only 208 runs in the day - they could grab wickets only after the batting side had managed to build themselves into a position of strength. However, there were positives for Pakistan on the second day, specially the bowling of pacers Mohammad Talha and Junaid Khan.
Talha, bowling in only his second Test after a gap of nearly five years, provided the much-needed breakthroughs on both days and finished with figures of 3 for 99 in 32 overs. He is one of the fastest bowlers in Pakistan's domestic cricket circuit, but was pushed back with the emergence of Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan. Talha remained on the periphery of national selection for a long time and was left out for the squad for the first two Tests, but his performance showed an eagerness to make the best of an opportunity that came out of the blue.
On an unresponsive surface, Talha experimented a tad too much but though he was short of length, his patience was rewarded with the vital scalps of Prasanna Jayawardene (35) and debutant Dilruwan Perera (95). Junaid, at the other end, charged in throughout the day and was tidy, although he did not get too much movement with the ball. Junaid was Pakistan's most successful bowler, taking 3 for 81 at an economy rate of 2.53.
Saeed Ajmal, on the other hand, struggled again. He had picked up two wickets on the first day, but the Sri Lanka batsmen tackled him sensibly on the second and scored more fluently off him. He was wicketless throughout the day and was left cursing a pitch that did not offer much help. He finished the innings with 2 for 120 in 55 overs. Prior to the Sharjah Test, Ajmal had called for more supportive pitches but as Pakistan's strike bowler, he is expected to take wickets irrespective of conditions.
Like the first day, Pakistan also had a few issues surrounding umpiring decisions, as many reviews ended up in Sri Lanka's favour. Had those decisions been in their favour, Pakistan could possibly have restricted Sri Lanka before the tea break. It may not have made an overwhelming difference but it was better than nothing on a day when the team struggled.
"This is what Test cricket is," Junaid said, after an unproductive day. "We tried hard to extract the best out of the day, but it was a flat pitch. The way the batsmen have batted in last two days, there is nothing much for the bowlers."
Given the current match situation, the onus is on Pakistan's batsmen to show composure in their innings and Junaid was optimistic about the team's chances in the match: "The way pitch is acting, our batsmen can push hard tomorrow to make quick runs to turn the pressure back on Sri Lanka. We are hoping the pitch can do a bit later in the match."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here