Dinesh Chandimal led Sri Lanka's effort with a hard-fought century in Abu Dhabi, his ninth in Tests and his first against Pakistan. It came under duress: Sri Lanka were in a bit of a bother at three wickets down for just 61 runs when Chandimal came in. Given the fragile Sri Lankan batting order of late, Chandimal has walked into bat under pressure quite a few times. But he seems to enjoy such situations: his previous two Test hundreds too had come with wickets falling around him. Against Bangladesh in Colombo earlier this year, he had walked in at a score of 24 for 2 only to see the Sri Lankan innings slip further to 70 for 4 and then 136 for 5. He rallied with the lower middle-order on that occasion to help Sri Lanka post a decent first-innings total of 338.
Sri Lanka had been worse off against Australia in August last year when he came in at a score of 24 for 4 - that quickly became 26 for 5 - and he made 132 runs in a 356-ball innings, the longest he had batted in his Test career before the current match. But Chandimal's last three hundreds have not been the only ones he has made with his team being in trouble. His best, perhaps, was the unbeaten 162 in the second innings of the Galle Test against India in 2015. On that occasion, besides coming in at 92 for 4 there was also the pressure of trailing India by 100 runs on a tricky pitch.
In fact, in as many as six of his nine century innings, Chandimal has walked in to bat at No. 4 or lower with Sri Lanka not having crossed 100 runs. In the last five years in Test cricket, among those who've batted at No. 4 or lower, only three other batsmen have made more hundreds from such situations. Not surprisingly, Younis Khan leads this list with 11 such centuries from 56 innings in the same period. Virat Kohli and Joe Root are the other batsmen who've had more such innings than Chandimal.
When it comes to batting under pressure, numbers suggest that Chandimal might be among the best that Sri Lanka has produced in Tests. Among batsmen who have scored at least 1000 runs at No. 4 or lower and arriving at the crease to bat with the team total not yet 100, Chandimal's batting average of 45.76 ranks second only to Mahela Jayawardene. Jayawardene made 6785 runs in such innings at an average of 46.16.
The first innings in Abu Dhabi is his 37th innings in such a match situation and he has made six hundreds in those innings. That's a conversion of one hundred in about six innings. No Sri Lanka batsmen having batted at lower than No. 3 in Tests has matched Chandimal's conversion.