Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2nd Test, SSC, 2nd day August 15, 2014

Sarfraz Ahmed to the rescue

Sarfraz Ahmed scored his third consecutive half-century © AFP

Pakistan's famously unpredictable batting tripped up on day two at SSC, as they lost their four best batsmen for 30 runs after the top order had provided a strong platform. The slump had Pakistan reeling at 140 for 5, handing control of the game back to Sri Lanka.

Pakistan entered the second and final Test with a clear intention to win to square the series. Day one went well but Rangana Herath's five-for grounded them on the second, though a solid 93-run partnership between Sarfraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq ensured Sri Lanka didn't run away with the game.

Sarfraz gave another demonstration of how much his batting has improved over the past year, dominating that stand with Shafiq. His scores since making a comeback are - 74, 5, 48, 55, 52 and 66* - which suggests Pakistan have at last found a wicketkeeper who can contribute with the bat. "I was asked by Waqar [Younis] to focus on my natural game," Sarfraz said, after another productive day with the bat. "The best part of my innings I believe is that it came when my team needed me."

Both Shafiq and Sarfraz are from Karachi and rose to prominence from the same cricket club, Pakistan Cricket Club. "My partnership with Asad has a special bond, mainly because we both have been playing together at club and domestic level. We shared quality time on the pitch mainly because our individual understanding is good.

"Obviously there was huge pressure mounting, so Asad and me decided to get stuck in and take some time. And once we were set, we preferred attacking Herath and hence Sri Lanka had to open the field so runs started to flow from both ends."

Sarfraz is playing with controlled aggression, showcasing fluent strokes to gather quick and important runs. "I have worked so hard to get back in the side and I don't want to lose this momentum. I am obviously under pressure but the support by the dressing room is the major boost to my career. The confidence they are offering me is making a big difference."

The Pakistan bowlers began the second day on a high after reducing Sri Lanka to 261 for 8 but they conceded 59 runs to the final two Sri Lanka wickets. Struggling to dismiss the tail is a problem Pakistan have had to deal with often in recent years.

"We have entered the Test with a positive approach and do not want to lose," Sarfraz said. "Although we lost quick wickets, that doesn't mean there is any negative approach but the top order went down while playing attacking shots. But at the same time credit should be given to Hearth as well as he bowled superbly.

"There are patches developing at one of the ends [tennis court] that are helping the spinners and with every passing day they will deteriorate more so it will be tough. But my immediate target tomorrow is to run down the deficit [of 76] runs and put the pressure back on Sri Lanka."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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