Misbah-ul-Haq earns Pakistan A thrilling draw
Pakistan A earned a thrilling draw after 27-year-old right-hander Misbah-ul-Haq of Sargodha rescued his team with a defiant knock of 91 on the fourth and final day of the First 'Test' against Sri Lanka A at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on Saturday.
Pakistan A, chasing 214 for victory off a minimum of 69 overs, looked in danger of defeat at 98 for seven, 12 minutes before the tea break. But Misbah, with excellent support from the tail, thwarted all attempts by Sri Lanka A skipper Tilan Samaraweera to capture the remaining three wickets. Pakistan eventually finished on 185 for nine wickets after facing 70 overs.
The injured Shabbir Ahmed, batting with a runner, helped Misbah, who has made only a solitary Test appearance against New Zealand early this year, add 36 for the eighth wicket. Then Irfan Fazil, the No 10, frustrated Sri Lanka A further by adding 48 runs for the ninth wicket in 91 minutes.
Misbah's defiant innings was ended at 182 in the 68th over, when he edged a delivery from left-arm spinner Sajeeva Weerakoon to Samaraweera at slip. He batted for 203 minutes and faced 188 balls, hitting one six and 13 fours. Irfan and last man Danish Kaneria played out the last few overs amid high tension to earn their side an honourable draw.
Irfan's contribution was only six not out, but he occupied the crease for 98 minutes and faced 82 balls to defy the Sri Lankan bowlers.
Misbah's fine innings upstaged a good bowling performance from Samaraweera who finished the match with a bag of ten wickets for 102. He took six wickets for 55 runs in the second innings to equal his previous career-best figures for SSC v Singha SC at Maitland Place early this year.
Pakistan coach-cum-manager Mudassar Nazar said a defensive move by the Sri Lanka captain probably cost them the match.
"He pushed all the fielders back for Misbah and I think in the end it is what probably cost him the game. He should have attacked Misbah a bit more because the the ball was turning. Then he stood a better chance of winning the match.
"Misbah had to be the principal scorer and when he couldn't score boundaries we decided to shut up shop at that stage," said Mudassar.
"It was a wonderful knock by Misbah. He has scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket, but some of the senior players have said that his technique was flawed. He has given ample example in this innings," said Mudassar.
"It was very exciting game and it was a low-scoring affair where Sri Lanka came up trumps with their spin bowlers, their captain in particular," he said.
On a turning pitch Pakistan A batsmen found it difficult to cope with the spin of Samarawera who bowled craftily with intelligent field placings as one by one the batsmen were lured into his trap.
Samaraweera, bringing himself on in the fourth over of the innings, achieved the initial breakthrough with his third ball when he had Toufiq Umer mis-hitting a drive to mid-on. He also picked up the wickets of Imran Farhat and Qaiser Abbas before taking himself off after an initial spell of six overs for eight runs.
Then, switching ends, he ended a threatening fifth-wicket partnership of 43 in 49 minutes by taking the prize wicket of his opposite number Hasan Raza for 21.
The obdurate Raza, a century-maker in the first innings with 107, was taken at slip by Upekha Fernando as the ball spun off the face of his bat. Raza's dismisssal made Pakistan's plight still worse. In the first innings he had rescued his side from being 35 for four to 223 all out.
Misbah, who partnered Raza in a fifth-wicket stand of 43, once again provided resistance as Samaraweera went on to consume Humayun Farhat and Yasir Arafat within nine runs of each other as Pakistan A slid to 104 for 7 at tea.
Misbah batted positively and reached his half-century off 92 balls in 95 minutes with eight fours. He found an able partner in the injured Shabbir Ahmed. The pair raised the total by a further 36 runs before Shabbir, batting with the aid of a runner due to a groin strain, edged a delivery from leg-spinner Chandana Samarasinghe to Samaraweera at slip. He made 21 with three fours.
Misbah, mixing aggression with caution, continued to thwart the Sri Lankan bowling to make a top score of 91.
Sri Lanka were left to rue a dropped catch at seven offered by Misbah when he edged Sajika Weerakoon behind the wicket to Sangakkara who failed to hold it despite making a valiant attempt.
Sri Lanka A added a further 40 runs in 81 minutes to their overnight total of 176 forsix6 before being dismissed for 216, leaving Samaraweera undefeated on 20 made in 122 minutes.
Leg-spinner Danish Kaneria took two of the four wickets to fall today, to end with figures of four for 64 and match figures of seven for 133. Fast bowler Yasir Arafat took three wickets to finish the match with six wickets. The second four-day unofficial Test commences at the NCC grounds on Tuesday.