Bayliss regrets playing lone spinner
Sri Lankan coach Trevor Bayliss believes the ploy of going into the third and final Test against Pakistan with one spinner has not worked to their advantage. The visitors batted themselves into a strong position on the third day at the SSC, with their lead swelling to 366 and Sri Lanka facing an uphill battle.
"We felt the absence of a second spinner and regret not having played one," said Bayliss. "If we had played two spinners it doesn't guarantee you anything, but it would have given us more options. Our attack in this game has lacked a little bit in variety."
Sri Lanka left out spinner Ajantha Mendis and opted for four seamers, giving veteran fast bowler Chaminda Vaas an opportunity to make his farewell appearance in Tests.
"Pakistan have played well in this match and batted quite well," Bayliss said. "Misbah [ul-Haq] and [Shoaib] Malik put their heads down today and looked like they really meant business. They grafted out for two hours and once they got in they started to blossom. I thought they batted really well.
"Pakistan put a partnership together and batted well and on the flattest wicket we've played on in the series. A few balls out there turned today and that will happen over the next two days. It's probably been the best conditions to bat. The ball seems to be more evenly paced and coming on to the bat, than the first few days when it was slow and some were a bit quicker and somewhat two-paced."
Bayliss also said the team regretted not having scored more runs in the first innings. "So far we haven't got batters out of form but batters out of big runs," he said. "They are all striking the ball well and playing nicely. The difference in this series and in the last couple of years is that they haven't gone on to make the big scores. This is something a little bit out of the ordinary.
"They'll be looking to turn that around in the second innings. It's not a real concern chasing down runs. We know we have quality players and we may not be too far down the track before they start producing those big scores once again."
Bayliss said Sri Lanka's first priority tomorrow would be to take the remaining five wickets as soon as possible. "If we don't, it's left to Pakistan and what sort of a target they want to set us. We certainly won't be giving up. Whatever the target is, we'll be trying to bat for a long time and score the runs. It's not impossible to bat on this wicket as the guys showed today. It will start to take a little more turn in the next couple of days but we've got some quality players who have scored big runs on these types of wickets before. I am pretty happy with the effort put in by the boys today."
Pakistan batsman Shoaib Malik who brought up only his second Test century said he enjoyed batting at the SSC, the venue where he scored his maiden hundred. "Even on that occasion I had to save the team from defeat," Malik said. "This ground is quite a lucky one for me. Today I thought no matter what I will just go out there and play my natural game. I got the same message from the captain and the coach. I've been telling myself a long time that we had to compensate for the two opportunities we missed out in the first two Tests."
Malik was also full of praise for Misbah-ul-Haq, with whom he put on 119 for the fifth wicket to take Pakistan to a commanding position. "After Sri Lanka took the first four wickets, the match was in their grasp," Malik said. "The major thing was the way Misbah played and our partnership. Misbah was not in good form and he came back at a crucial stage. Once you've broken the bowlers' confidence you can take them on and get some runs. The best time to bat on this wicket was between lunch and tea. We have performed well while batting in this Test. We are hoping the bowlers will produce something for us.
"We've worked hard and learnt from our mistakes. The way the team is playing at the moment we have covered a lot of ground. The batting didn't perform well in the first two Tests we got the opportunities but couldn't win from there. This is a good batting wicket, turning a bit but not supporting the fast bowlers anymore. That's what I felt when I was batting. What target we'll set Sri Lanka depends on the captain and coach. We will play accordingly."