Whatmore disappointed Pakistan didn't 'capitalise'
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore has said his side has conceded the advantage they had coming into the third day of the Pallekele Test. Sri Lanka began the day on 44 for 3, after Pakistan had made 226 in the first innings, and managed to bat out the first session without losing a wicket.
They finished with a lead of 111, courtesy some dogged batting from Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilan Samaraweera, an attacking innings from Thisara Perera and lapses in the field from Pakistan. The visitors ended the day at 27 for one, having lost opener Taufeeq Umar for four and still trailing by 84 runs on the lively Pallekele pitch.
"The position we are now in, we [have] really got to fight very hard with the bat in the second innings," Whatmore said. "I thought the first hour the pitch didn't misbehave but it really gave some encouragement to the bowlers. Unfortunately we weren't able to capitalise. It was disappointing not to pick up a wicket, particularly in that first hour. The first session was clearly Sri Lanka's.
"It's a good wicket now, offering something for the bowlers and the [batsmen]. It's not about just taking time out of the game, but scoring runs as well. It's the old fashioned way - work hard, get a start and then maximise."
Whatmore defended captain Misbah-ul-Haq's decision to set a defensive field once Sri Lanka's batsmen has settled in. "In the heat of battle, when things are going their way, you just need to try and stop the runs as well as take wickets. It's not an easy situation. It [the game] was really taken away from us in that last session."
Pakistan's catching once again let them down, with three missed chances - two in the slips and a return catch. On all occasions, the bowler was Umar Gul.
"They were tough catches later in the day, but it's got to be taken," Whatmore said. "The slip catches have been good, it [those drops] was a little bit of a surprise for me. Our slips cordon is pretty decent, but it wasn't today."
Thisara Perera was the biggest beneficiary. He was dropped twice, by Gul off his own bowling on 11 and by Misbah-ul-Haq at first slip on 22. He made Pakistan pay; after arriving at the crease with the score on 204 for 6, he added 133 with the lower order and was the final batsman to fall.
"[Thisara] is fairly new to international cricket. It will take time for teams to have a true appreciation of the damage he can do," Whatmore said. "It will be harder for him in the second and third year. From what we've seen now, he is a real physical presence for the home team and a thorn for the visiting team. He's a strong boy and thrives on brute strength."
For Pakistan, Junaid Khan was the biggest positive - he picked up his second five-for in the series. His 'competitiveness' made him special, Whatmore said. "Junaid has been a bit of a revelation for us. The first time I've seen him play and he has been a terrific competitor. He has that ingredient that all good players have, that real fierce competitiveness - you can feel that when you talk to him.
"He has got some skill and he has got a big engine: he runs all day and he is fit, and he'll only get better. He did a really good job under very difficult conditions at the SSC and he has carried on here."
Pakistan have been handicapped by a finger injury to their wicketkeeper, Adnan Akmal, who, Whatmore said, may have to come out and bat if required. Taufeeq Umar kept in Akmal's absence, and did not have the best of days, allowing 16 byes. But how Taufeeq coped in a tough situation should be commended, Whatmore said.
"Wicketkeeping is a specialised position and when you haven't got that person in the team it's unfortunate … But Taufeeq battled hard for us, although we gave away a lot of extras. Somebody had to put the gloves for us, so he did a pretty decent job."