It's captains' day as Hasan Raza defies Sri Lanka A
Pakistan A rode on skipper Hasan Raza's chanceless innings of 89 not out to end the second day of the first unofficial Test against Sri Lanka A on 192 for eight at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on Thursday.
As much as Raza held the Pakistan innings together, it was his opposite number Tilan Samaraweera who caused much of the damage to his team when he broke the back of their batting with figures of four for 42.
At the end of the day, the honours were even with Pakistan A trailing Sri Lanka A by 28 runs with two wickets in hand. Sri Lanka A made 220 on the first day.
With the pitch increasingly assisting the spinners, Pakistan A will rely heavily on Raza to get them a substantial first innings lead or as close to the Sri Lankan total as they can because they face the prospect of batting last.
Samaraweera with his probing off-breaks snapped up two wickets in his first seven overs to have Pakistan A struggling at 56 for four at lunch. He made further inroads with two more wickets after the break to have them groping at 114 for six.
But Raza, playing the sheet anchor role, ensured the innings did not fold up tamely with a resolute exhibition of batting. At the end of the day he had faced 224 balls and hit seven fours in a chanceless display. His innings has so far spanned five and a quarter hours and Pakistan A would have been in the doldrums without him.
He completed his half-century in 174 minutes off 124 balls with four fours and even a verbal exchange with left-arm pace bowler Ruchira Perera when he lobbed the ball to no-man's land at 85, failed to disturb his concentration.
Perera bowled with a lot of fire to finish the day with two for 31 off 19 overs.
Misbah-ul-Haq and Yasir Arafat stayed long enough to assist their captain in two useful partnerships that brought Pakistan closer to the Sri Lankan total.
Misbah scored 40 out of a 69-run partnership for the fifth wicket in 116 minutes. It was followed by one of 63 in 117 minutes for the seventh wicket with Arafat whose contribution was only 17. Misbah, at 24, profited from a dropped chance at slip by Upekha Fernando off Sajika Weerakoon.
Sri Lanka bowled and fielded enthusiastically and were rewarded for their efforts. They had one small mishap when Ian Daniel suffered a painful blow on the back of his left hand as he took evasive action at forward short-leg when Arafat pulled a short ball from Samaraweera. Daniel was taken to hospital for a precautionary X-ray which revealed no fracture, but only swelling. Sri Lanka A coach Hemantha Devapriya said that Daniel would be fit to continue in the match.
Pakistan A were boosted by the arrival of their fielding coach Julian Fountain who pressed his young disciples into action at the end of play.