Unofficial Test hangs in the balance
The first four-day unofficial Test Match between Sri Lanka A and Pakistan A was heading for a tight finish at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium following a close tussle for honours on the third day Friday.
Hasan Raza, the Pakistan A captain, completed his tenth first-class century - a chanceless knock of 107 - to give his side a slender first innings lead of three runs.
By the close of the third day, Sri Lanka A had made 176 for six in their second innings to hold an overall lead of 173 going into the final day on Saturday.
The result of the match hinges on what sort of target Sri Lanka A will set Pakistan A, and the number of overs they will give their bowlers to take ten wickets.
Sri Lanka A scored 220 in their first innings and Pakistan A replied with 223.
Sri Lanka A recovered from losing openers Dhammika Sudarshana and Ian Daniel for 34 through a third-wicket stand of 112 between Michael Vandort and Kumar Sangakkara which lifted Sri Lanka A to a healthy 146 for two.
But the dismissal of Vandort for 84 and Sangakkara for 54 before the close, saw Sri Lanka A lose four wickets for 28 runs on a pitch which is becoming increasingly difficult for batting.
The tall Vandort, using his height advantage, stroked his way to a maiden half-century in international cricket. He reached his fifty with a straight drive for four off Toufiq Umer and celebrated it with an on-drive off the next delivery. It took him 100 minutes and 85 balls with seven fours.
Vandort survived a chance at 63 when Danish Kenaria dropped an easy catch at deep mid-wicket off Qaiser Abbas and, with a century there for the taking, he fell lbw to Irfan as he played across the line. Vandort batted for 183 minutes and faced 143 balls for his score of 84 which comprised eight fours and a six over long-on off leg-spinner Kaneria.
The left-hander, playing most of his shots off the front foot and excelling on the drive, has fulfilled the promise he showed when he broke into first-class cricket two years ago by scoring two double centuries for CCC in the Premier trophy tournament.
Upekha Fernando and Chamara Silva did not last long, falling within ten runs of each other, but Tilan Samaraweera stayed with Sangakkara to see him through to his half-century.
Sangakkara, struggling to find his form, took 80 balls for his first 40 runs, but went into his shell thereafter and required a further 68 balls to score the next ten runs for his half-century. He batted for 200 minutes and reached the boundary six times.
Resuming at his overnight score of 89, the 19-year-old right-hander Raza struck two fours, one each off fast bowler Ruchira Perera and left-arm spinner Sajeeva Weerakoon to move to his century in the tenth over of the morning. It took him 356 minutes and came off 259 balls with the help of nine fours.
Raza became only the second cricketer to complete a century on this ground. Last month Nicky Degroot, playing for Canada, made 113 against North Central Province in a limited-overs game.
Raza lost his wicket shortly afterwards when he was rapped on the pads once by Weerakoon and adjudged lbw off the next delivery for 107. The batsman seemed unhappy with the decision, as he departed with Pakistan still trailing Sri Lanka by two runs.
Raza batted for 377 minutes and faced 283 balls, hitting ten fours. The innings was ended 68 minutes into the third day when Weerakoon bowled Irfan Fazil for ten to finish with figures of three for 64. His spell on Friday was two for 19 off 8.2 overs.