Azhar rues batting 'misjudgment'
Ever since the Galle turnaround, Pakistan's batting has combusted time and again. Batting collapses aren't new to Pakistan cricket, but after falling from 32 for 1 to 152 for 7 in 37 overs on the second day in Pallekele, even Azhar Ali, the team's vice-captain, could not offer an explanation.
Azhar, like several of his team-mates, was guilty of throwing his wicket away despite being one of the few batsmen settled at the crease. Before that, on a pitch that was not unplayable by any means, Ahmed Shehzad was done by his own remiss, and Asad Shafiq played across the line to be trapped lbw.
Was it fair to call Pakistan's batting careless?
"I don't think careless is the right word, but you can say misjudgment," Azhar said. "We all were out there with a positive frame of mind and were very much focused but it didn't work out. You sometime hit a ball for a boundary and the same ball gets you out as well, which is part of the game. You can't just say that we were careless.
"They (Sri Lanka bowlers) bowled in the right areas this time, again otherwise the wicket is still very good for Test cricket as it has everything for everyone. The main point we lacked today was not building big partnerships otherwise it could have been different scenario. We anchored small partnerships but converting them into bigger partnerships was the only thing missed. Small partnership in intervals looked easy for us for a while, but then again, we lost few wickets in the wrong time and we never got time to get settled."
The collapse undid most of the good work done by the Pakistan bowlers, who bundled Sri Lanka out for 278, as the visitors still trailed by 69 runs with just one wicket in hand going into day three. Before the Test, Misbah-ul-Haq had suggested that his team had their best chance of beating a weakened Sri Lanka side at their home, but Pakistan's performance on Saturday did little to justify that belief. Azhar, though, felt the game was still open.
"We still have a chance to beat Sri Lanka by trying to exploit the absence of big names in their team. But at the same time, whoever they have are very good players representing their country. We are applying ourselves with full strength to beat them but we have to be on top of our game.
"This Test is still open and the closer we get to their score, it will increase our chances to pull this in our way. The third innings is always important and if we managed to get them out early, we are capable of turning things around like we did in Galle as well. So there is plenty of time in the match and we are positive about everything. From tomorrow, it will be a new day and we look forward to it."
Pakistan may sound optimistic, but at the moment, only Yasir Shah is on top of his game. The game may not be lost, but the momentum most certainly has.
"It's Test cricket because it test you in different sessions, and if we managed to pull ourselves together in the coming days and play our best cricket, then we can win this game and we are positive about this," Azhar said.
"The only problem we have had so far is that we couldn't convert the smaller partnerships into big ones. It's not like the pitch wasn't good, it is equally good for batsmen, but each one of us have to apply ourselves and have to work hard to get the best out of this."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson