Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day June 20, 2015

Sarfraz, Shafiq lead dramatic turnaround

Sri Lanka 300 and 63 for 2 (Karunaratne 36*) trail Pakistan 417 (Shafiq 131, Sarfraz 96, Zulfiqar 56, Dilruwan 4-122) by 54 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Play 00:45
Pakistan on top after day four

A brilliantly unorthodox 96 from Sarfraz Ahmed and a seventh Test century from Asad Shafiq turned the Galle Test around on a fourth day that exposed Sri Lanka's bowling limitations. Having been five down and 182 behind at the start of the fourth morning, Pakistan were bowled out 45 minutes into the final session, having taken a 117-run lead. Their bowlers then struck twice to leave Sri Lanka a tricky job to get through the final day unscathed.

Sri Lanka's openers saw out eight tight overs from Pakistan's new-ball pair before Wahab Riaz struck the first blow, angling one across at three-quarters pace and inducing Kaushal Silva to stretch out for a drive and edge to third slip. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kumar Sangakkara played vigilantly for the next eleven overs, and looked secure enough to confirm that the pitch, rather than deteriorating, had slowed down a touch. But the bowling was always probing, and the wicket-taking ball was always around the corner. Yasir Shah produced it, getting extra bounce to get Sangakkara to pop one to short leg off the glove as he stretched forward to defend. At stumps, Karunaratne was batting on 36 with the nightwatchman Dilruwan Perera for company.

Sarfaraz struck 13 fours in his 86-ball blitz; the lofted drive that took Shafiq from 96 to 100 was only his fourth. Their contrasting methods proved equally effective during their 139-run stand, and showed why they have already become Pakistan's most successful sixth-wicket pair. Shafiq's defence was impeccable, and he minimised Sri Lanka's hopes of inroads at his end even when Sarfraz was blazing away at the other.

Shafiq didn't change his game too much while batting with the lower order; he simply took the singles on offer against the well-spread fields and let his partners do the bulk of the scoring. Shafiq scored 51 runs in the post-lunch session; between them, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar made 88, profiting from some tired, unimaginative Sri Lankan bowling.

The seamers bounced the lower-order batsmen, and while there was one moment of acute discomfort - Dhammika Prasad smacking the back of Yasir Shah's helmet while he took his eyes off the ball - the tactic also leaked runs. Yasir pulled hooked to the square leg boundary, and Zulfiqar backed away from his stumps to shovel the short ball over midwicket and mid-on or carve the ball square on the off side. Zulfiqar grew in confidence as he spent more time at the crease, and soon brought up his maiden Test fifty by launching the offspinner Dilruwan over long on.

By the time Shafiq was stumped running out of his crease to Dilruwan, the last four wickets had stretched Pakistan's score by 182 runs. But they couldn't have done it without Sarfraz, who dramatically altered the state of the game with his thrilling attack in the morning session.

Last year, Sarfraz was the only Pakistan batsman who got on top of Rangana Herath during their tour of Sri Lanka. Where his team-mates were consumed by the thought of survival, he was constantly looking for runs, and challenging him with his unorthodoxy, often taking guard outside leg stump.

He made three fifties and a hundred in the two Tests, and the confidence from all those runs was apparent right from the third over of the morning, when he took a big stride forward to sweep Herath to the backward square leg boundary and followed it up with nimble footwork two balls later to get down the track and inside the line to drive inside-out through extra cover.

Sarfraz had a unique and effective response to all of Sri Lanka's bowlers. He stood outside leg stump when the offspinner Dilruwan Perera bowled from around the wicket and took an off-stump guard when he bowled from over the wicket, enabling him to get to the pitch of the ball easier when he tossed it up wide of off stump.

Against the fast bowlers, who hinted at reverse swing in the first hour, he took guard outside his crease - sometimes six inches outside, sometimes so far ahead of it that his feet may have straddled a second crease twice the distance from the stumps. From this position he clipped Dhammika Prasad against the around-the-wicket angle, and then used the pace to dab the ball to the third man boundary when he changed angle and dug it in short.

The scoring was rapid, comfortably over four an over even though Shafiq relied almost entirely on his defence at the other end. Sarfraz was on 15 and Shafiq on 14 when the day began. When Shafiq struck his first boundary of the day - a rasping square-cut off Nuwan Pradeep in the ninth over of the morning - he moved to 23. Sarfraz by that time had waltzed past 50.

Both batsmen looked entirely secure in their methods, and Sri Lanka's bowling - as cause or consequence - seemed to lack bite. Sri Lanka's tactics were also a touch puzzling, particularly their use of their main weapon. Herath went out of the attack after only one full over (and the remainder of the third evening's incomplete final over), and by the time he returned, both batsmen were comfortably set, and the deficit had been cut down to 116.

The same method that had brought Sarfraz his runs also led to his downfall when he was within reach of his fourth Test hundred. Prasad sent down a full ball outside off and Sarfraz stretched out to try and sweep him. It would have been breathtakingly audacious had it come off, but he only managed to drag the ball off his inside edge onto off stump.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments