Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day August 9, 2014

Rehman loses lustre in partnership with Ajmal

Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal used to be a formidable spin partnership, but Rehman has faded in the last couple of years

Abdur Rehman hasn't enjoyed the success Saeed Ajmal has had © AFP

Pakistan bowled 163.1 overs in the first innings, with the spinners Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal sharing a spell of 18 overs, the longest bowling partnership on the fourth day in Galle. They conceded 56 runs, dismissed Angelo Matehws, and almost had Kumar Sangakkara caught. Apart from that period, Rehman hardly got the chance to bowl with Ajmal.

The chemistry between Rehman and Ajmal is no fluke. Over the last few years, Pakistan's fast bowlers have faded, allowing spinners to stake their claim, and the Rehman-Ajmal combination became a force. They shared 43 wickets to destroy England 3-0 in 2011-12 to further their reputation, but their bond is broken now as Rehman has been overshadowed by Ajmal's burgeoning success. Rehman played almost every Test between January 2010 and June 2012, but couldn't live up to expectation in the opportunities he was given later.

"We both played like one unit," Rehman told ESPNcricinfo. "We always had a plan and my task was to contain and put pressure while his [Ajmal's] task was to take wickets from the other end. He might end up taking more wickets then me but I was fine with it because that was the plan. That was the chemistry and we executed it."

"We didn't have to plan before every match, it was something well understood between us. I thoroughly enjoy bowling with him and there is no sense of competition between us - he tends to take wickets and I am supposed to lay the ground for him to take wickets. Our main purpose is to do well and take as many wickets and contain runs."

In the last two years opportunities have been rare for Rehman during Dav Whatmore's tenure as coach, when Pakistan mostly played three fast bowlers and Mohammad Hafeez as Ajmal's spin partner. Rehman's frustration bubbled over when he was barred from bowling in an Asia Cup match against Bangladesh for delivering three full tosses above the waist. He finished with figures of 0-0-8-0.

Rehman's record in Galle isn't encouraging. He took 1 for 151 in a Test there in June 2012 and he might have felt déjà vu on the fourth day, when he finished with 123 for 1 in 39 overs.

Rehman's struggle was obvious on a flat pitch. He dismissed Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 221, but barely celebrated. Sangakkara had already given Sri Lanka the first-innings lead, and Rehman knew he was being scrutinised.

"There has been some frustration because I haven't played much cricket in the last one year," Rehman said. "Sometime it's really tough to push yourself and there is some lack of motivation as well. So what I need is support. I know I can do a lot for Pakistan. I have done it in the past. What happened in Bangladesh during the Asia Cup was something that even I can't believe. I actually wasn't fit but played because I was frustrated at sitting out despite being part of the squad for a year."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson