Keeping to Murali prepared me for Ajmal - Sangakkara
Years of keeping wicket to Muttiah Muralitharan and plain good vibes have been behind Kumar Sangakkara's ability to mute Saeed Ajmal and succeed against the Pakistan attack, the batsman said after hitting his 10th double-hundred. Ajmal has been the most penetrative spin bowler in the world for some years, counting the doosra made famous by Murali among his chief weapons. But Sangakkara has played him better than most, falling to Ajmal only three times in 13 matches. He averages 167 against Ajmal.
"I think it's mainly because I've kept a lot to Murali, so I've had to learn to read deliveries from the hand," Sangakkara said of his good record against Ajmal. "I don't say that I read Ajmal all the time, but most of the time I do read his doosra, so that makes it slightly easier to play. Because I'm a leftie I don't have to worry about being hit on the pads when he beats my bat. If he does beat my bat, it's usually straight to the wicketkeeper. As a right-hander, he can beat you on both sides of the bat, so that makes it a bit hard. It's a combination of both factors."
Sangakkara has made more runs than any batsman against Pakistan, with 2707, and three of his double-hundreds and 10 of his 37 tons coming against them. He averages 84.59 against them in 38 innings, but he could only guess at why he has been so prolific against a team that fields a consistently testing attack.
"My first double-hundred was against them in Lahore. Since then I've just had a knack of scoring against them. They've got a very good attack, but it's maybe because I'm a left-hander. Maybe their spinners find it a bit difficult to bowl to me - I don't know. I think I've had a bit of good fortune as well along the way. They sometimes drop a few catches along the way, which helps me. Sometimes as a batsman you feel in sync and in rhythm with a certain attack, and I think the Pakistanis have been like that for me."
No one else in the Sri Lanka side made triple figures, though Sangakkara did strike up century stands with Kaushal Silva, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews during his 221. Sri Lanka had been precariously placed after Pakistan made 451 in their first innings, and although a win seems far off, Sangakkara had ensured Sri Lanka were unlikely to lose the match.
"There was quite a bit of hard work, and quite a bit of luck. The thing with the Pakistan bowlers was it was a bit difficult to score singles, especially with a spinner like Ajmal, because he's got variation. Being a leftie, I rarely come out of the crease to him. Other than that, if you spend enough time out there, there's runs on offer. It would have been brilliant if Mahela and Angelo got hundreds, because they both looked well set and looked comfortable. It was a bit disappointing that they couldn't make it over the line, because they really deserved that."
Ajmal completed a five-wicket haul on day four, but had had to wait for 46.3 overs before he made his first breakthrough - he has never bowled so many before taking his first wicket. His plight was not helped by a Galle surface taking far less turn than it has in the past, but Sangakkara said Sri Lanka could have been in a better position to force a result had they been clinical with the ball in the first innings.
"Maybe there is a bit less turn in this pitch. It maybe broke up a bit less and there was more grass cover on the wicket. I think it was a fantastic effort by the curator to give us a wicket of such quality after the rain that they had and the preparation being stalled. I think it was a case where again we let the Pakistan tail get away with a few too many runs, especially with Rehman getting a fifty. Other than that if we can get a few early wickets in the morning, we'll try and see if we can put pressure on them."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando