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The Bulletin by Sriram Veera
February 22, 2009
Mahela Jayawardene struck his first double-century outside Sri Lanka - his fifth overall - while Thilan Samaraweera went past 200 for the first time in Tests to bat Pakistan out of the game on the second day in Karachi. They feasted on an insipid bowling attack, rendered helpless by the flat pitch, and posted 437 runs - a Test record - for the fourth wicket. Sri Lanka eventually declared on 644 for 7 but Pakistan's batsmen may not have it as easy as the visitors did after Muttiah Muralitharan dismissed Salman Butt shortly before stumps.
Whatever the intention behind this Karachi pitch, despite Younis Khan's plea for a good wicket, only one team can realistically win from here. And it's not the hosts. There was a banner in the crowd with a cruel message for the new captain - 'Younis, we want results, not just smiles'.
The boy who held up that message was given plenty of time to think and scribble it down by Jayawardene and Samaraweera. They batted as if on autopilot, knowing they were not going to be surprised on a placid pitch, and did not try anything extravagant to impose themselves on Pakistan. Jayawardene was as pleasing and steady as he was on the first day, playing his signature shots - the off drive, the square cut, and the flick. Samaraweera had said last evening he wanted to raise his Test strike-rate and he achieved that without having to try too hard.
They were cautious in the morning against some disciplined bowling from Yasir Arafat and Umar Gul, and scored only 18 in the first ten overs. The third-man region, where over 100 runs were scored on the first day, was plugged but the batsmen managed to find other areas and took 51 off the next ten overs. And settling in, the two batted on and on.
Their partnership spanned 108.3 overs and they dominated a Pakistan attack lacking in swing, pace and high-quality spin, until fatigue began to take its toll. Jayawardene achieved the partnership record by top-edging a sweep and, a few balls later, Samaraweera was beaten by Danish Kaneria's googly. Until then, their stand had been an outstanding exhibition of patience and maturity. After they fell in quick succession with the score on 614, Shoaib Malik dismissed Tillakaratne Dilshan for a duck, and Jayawardene declared shortly after.
Pakistan's best bowler, Arafat, was steady but hardly dangerous. Sohail Khan was anything but steady, and while Gul's performance was just about satisfactory, Kaneria's was a mixed bag of good and poor deliveries. Malik's plan was to curve deliveries towards slip from round the wicket but the ploy failed. Jayawardene even reverse-swept him for four and, once Malik switched over the stumps, he was harmless. Even Salman Butt bowled and Samaraweera helped himself to a couple of boundaries.
Sri Lanka's bowlers, on the other hand, appeared spicier on the same pitch. Chaminda Vaas teased Pakistan's openers with his accurate swing, Dilhara Fernando hustled them with pace, and Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis got the ball to turn. Butt, who was hit on the body and survived a close shout for a caught behind against Fernando, was dropped off Ajantha Mendis' first ball. Unlike Jayawardene, he failed to make use of his reprieve and fell soon after, edging an offbreak from Murali to the Sri Lankan captain at first slip. Khurram Manzoor, who looked in more strife than Butt, repeatedly lunged forward to the spinners, trying desperately to get the bat in front of his pad. He was unconvincing but survived until stumps.
The pitch remained excellent for batting but the sheer weight of Sri Lanka's total will put Pakistan under immense pressure. In July last year, Sri Lanka amassed 600 at the SSC before skittling India out for 223 and 138. Pakistan will have to dig deep to prevent a similar result.
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala