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The Report by Andrew Fidel Fernando
January 19, 2014
Sri Lanka 428 for 9 dec (Perera 95, Mathews 91, Sangakkara 52) and 133 for 5 (Mahela 46) lead Pakistan 341 (Shehzad 147, Misbah 63, Herath 5-125, Eranga 4-60) by 220 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If any thought lingered that Sri Lanka's designs for the match in Sharjah were aggressive, their batting in the third innings provided unequivocal proof they want nothing more than 1-0 from the series. By stumps, Sri Lanka had crawled to 133 for 5 from 71 overs and the barely-breathing run rate of 1.87 was their lowest for any Test innings since 1994, in which they batted at least 50 overs.
Staggeringly, given the run rate, Sri Lanka seemed the only team capable of victory for large parts of the day but, having dismissed Mahela Jayawardene 15 minutes before stumps, Pakistan laid claim to hope, mild though it is. Sri Lanka are 220 ahead with five wickets in hand, but even if they only manage to set a target of 250, the umpires have already set a precedent of allowing the spinners to bowl wide outside the leg stump, which means Sri Lanka are capable of being as defensive in the field as they have been with the bat.
Abdur Rehman provided the only notable excitement in the day, gleaning more from the surface in the middle session than any bowler had so far. In the afternoon, he delivered 13 overs from the Sharjah Cricket Club end, where spinners have preferred to bowl, but unlike Sri Lanka's left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath, he did not target the footmarks at the other end. Instead, Rehman worked off a tight off-stump line to the right-handers, flighting most, skidding some, top-spinning others, and generally beating the edge with more regularity than has so far been seen in the match.
He was rewarded with the scalp of Kumar Sangakkara, who capped a modest series by his standards by playing an injudicious sweep that he failed to control. Sangakkara should, in fact, have been out playing the same shot to the same bowler in the first innings but the umpire did not spot the ball striking glove on that occasion.
Rehman created his second dismissal all on his own. Kaushal Silva had been secure and confident on his way to 36, adapting to the variable bounce in the pitch by moving his feet with assurance. But he eventually pushed forward at a ball pitched on middle from Rehman, that ripped off the surface, beat his edge and took the outside of off stump. Rehman resorted to coming around the wicket later in the day, as Sri Lanka shelved any semblance of positive strokeplay. In the evening, though, Saeed Ajmal became the bigger threat, as Sri Lanka's inaction allowed Pakistan to persist with men around the bat.
But in a match that should already be marketed as a cure for insomnia, the third session, when 33 overs yielded 45 runs, was the dullest by a distance. The cricket might have generated more interested had the runs been delivered via an IV drip.
Leaving everything in the channel a foot and a half outside the off stump had been a hallmark of Jayawardene's hundred in the second Test and, though he was no longer hampered by a stitched up left-hand, he engaged the ploy once more on Sunday. A short ball or a pitched up delivery on leg stump sometimes drew pull or a sweep, but otherwise, he could not be stirred - not even by the prospect of hitting the half-century he had missed out on in the first innings.
He paid the price for his passivity. With Jayawardene on 46 and having failed to score for 15 balls, Ajmal had one take a little more turn from the surface, with an inside edge deflecting to short leg.
The bowling rarely troubled Angelo Mathews and, in turn, he sought not to tax the scorers either. Almost everything Pakistan delivered was met with a dead bat and soft hands, and even when he drove or punched there was not enough conviction in his strokes to beat the field. Pakistan kept two slips to him, and the bowlers attempted various angles of attack, but ponderous scoring rates had not affected him so far in the series and they failed to irk him now. His first 50 balls brought him eight runs, before he was dropped on 9 - the third time in three innings. He did not offer an aggressive shot after that, going to stumps alongside Prasanna Jayawardene at 14 from 99 balls.
In Pakistan's innings, Misbah-ul-Haq had resisted Shaminda Eranga's reverse-swing and Herath's persistence to help carve 50 runs off the deficit, as Herath completed the first five-wicket haul for a spinner in the series. Eranga generated considerable movement to take two wickets in his first two overs, though his dismissal of Mohammad Talha was a further instance of the umpiring inconsistencies that have put Pakistan at a marked disadvantage in the game. The ball was projected to be clipping leg stump, but at least four such appeals had been turned down in Sri Lanka's first innings.
Misbah's initial annoyance at Herath's leg-stump line solidified to disdain, as he attempted to swat the bowler over the leg-side boundary early in each over. He succeeded once and was foiled another time by Eranga, who leapt over the square-leg boundary line to catch the ball then toss it back before he hit the ground.
He farmed the strike so effortlessly off both seamers and slow bowlers that Sri Lanka soon abandoned hope of dismissing him, and placed all nine fielders at the boundary for the first four balls of each over. But even when they came in, Misbah did not miss his chance to steal a single and keep himself on strike. After Talha's dismissal in the 99th over, he faced at least five balls in every over until his own demise in the 108th.
Having crossed 50 for the third time in four innings, Misbah eventually mishit Herath to long-on. Junaid Khan fell the same way in Herath's next over to leave the spinner with 5 for 125.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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