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July 24, 2009
In the end, neither team wanted it badly enough. Sri Lanka couldn't quite summon up the courage for one final dash, and Pakistan spent much of the afternoon merely going through the motions. When play was called off with the 15 mandatory overs to be bowled, Sri Lanka were 101 short of the 492-run target, and Pakistan had toiled all day for just one wicket. Kumar Sangakkara's 19th Test century was the story of the day, but even his performance was overshadowed by an utterly placid pitch. After 21 wickets fell in the opening two days, the bowlers on both sides could manage just 12 in the next nine sessions.
When Angelo Mathews struck a couple of boundaries soon after reaching his half-century after tea, there was the prospect of a Twenty20-like thrash in the final hour, but ultimately Sri Lanka decided to settle for the 2-0 series win.
With Sri Lanka resuming from their overnight 183 for 3, Pakistan would have fancied their chances of pulling off a consolation victory. But with Sangakkara remorselessly grinding the bowling into the SSC dust, and Thilan Samaraweera contributing a classy 73 to a partnership of 122, Younis Khan was left to forlornly shuffle a tiring bowling pack.
As he showed in Hobart not so long ago, Sangakkara is capable of dazzling counter-attacks in pressure situations. This, on a day when survival rather than urgency was the priority, was all rearguard and little flair, with occupation of the crease the main mantra. The odd languid drive through the covers, or the precise sweep to the spinners would occasionally reveal some intent, but by and large, circumspection was the name of the game.
With Mathews showing only brief glimpses of his shotmaking potential, the run-rate slowed quite a bit after Samaraweera's dismissal soon after lunch. He had been afflicted with cramp, and was then struck a glancing blow on the helmet by Mohammad Aamer before a doosra from Saeed Ajmal was nicked behind.
Apart from a brain-fade where he nearly handled the ball after digging out a yorker from Younis, Samaraweera had constantly challenged the bowlers, never allowing them to settle into a rhythm. Danish Kaneria, the scourge of Sri Lanka's first innings, was attacked and only Ajmal managed to exercise any real control.
Younis was also badly let down by Umar Gul, who struggled with no-balls and served up dross with the second new-ball. Each mistake was pounced on by Samaraweera, whose classical drives invoked another age. Pakistan still had a slight edge, but with no Flintoff-like talisman to turn to, Younis' brow became increasingly furrowed as the afternoon wore on. Sangakkara's smile only grew wider.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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