3rd Test

Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2012

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

At Pallekele, July 8-12, 2012. Drawn.
Toss: Sri Lanka.

Thisara Perera wrecked Pakistan's top order, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 1st day, July 8, 2012
Thisara Perera took a career-best 4 for 63 in the first innings © Getty Images
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Hill-country Sri Lanka was lush from months of rain, and offered the opposite to Colombo: a juicy Test pitch for bowlers to sink their teeth into. Mahela Jayawardene's gamble in inserting Pakistan for a second game in a row, after winning his third toss of the series, this time proved the right one, as his bowlers reduced them to 56 for four, then 226 all out. It was hardly the ideal platform for the series-levelling assault Pakistan had in mind.

Sri Lanka fielded four seamers in their line-up for the first time at home since July 2009. Perera, scourge of Pakistan in the one-day series but surprisingly left out of the first two Tests, extended his upward curve with a fine career-best display of swing bowling in favourable conditions that fetched him four of the top five. They included the two big century-makers from Colombo, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali, plus Misbah-ul-Haq, whose demise ended a pesky fourth-wicket stand of 85 with Asad Shafiq.

Dilhara Fernando, on his 17th comeback to the Test side, bowled too short, but inflicted an important blow by fracturing Adnan Akmal's left ring finger with a sharp delivery. Adnan was unable to keep wicket due to the pain, and had to hand over the gloves to the part-timer Taufeeq Umar, who did a fine job in the circumstances.

Sri Lanka's joy was short-lived, as the whippier pace of Junaid Khan and Mohammad Sami reduced them to 44 for three by stumps. Sangakkara, whose near-double-hundreds in the first two Tests had shut Pakistan out, was this time tormented by Junaid's inward movement: almost lbw to the first two balls, he had his stumps rearranged by the third.

The hosts' recovery, after a blank second day, was prompted by two of the most defensive players in modern cricket, Paranavitana and Samaraweera - both in desperate need of a score. They gritted out 143 in 47 overs, clearing the floor for the carefree pair of Perera and Kulasekara, who had given Pakistan such a headache with the new ball and now indulged in a stand of 84, helping Sri Lanka to a handy lead of 111. Pakistan's catching was shoddy: the usually reliable Younis Khan spilled Samaraweera on 49, and Misbah dropped Perera on 22, both off the luckless Umar Gul.

Pakistan had to do it the hard way if they were to level the series and maintain their unbeaten Test series record under Misbah. They wiped out the deficit with only two wickets down, and steadily built a lead on Azhar Ali's third century against Sri Lanka, and Asad Shafiq's second in all Tests; here, even in a vain effort, was the future of Pakistani batting. On a gently turning pitch, Azhar - in another technically assured innings - was able to step out and drive Herath, who became the third Sri Lankan, after Muralitharan and Vaas, to take 100 Test wickets at home.

Shafiq, though, was the key to averting defeat and setting a target. He was assisted by a brave performance from Adnan, who came out to bat late on the fourth evening, following painkilling injections, and returned next day to defend stoutly for an hour and a half and see Shafiq to his hundred. They added 81 and were helped by a slightly negative approach from Jayawardene, who set spread fields for Shafiq, apparently having given up hope of dismissing him.

Misbah left Sri Lanka a theoretical target of 270 in 71 overs. They set off positively and, when Chandimal and Sangakkara were together, an aggressive tilt looked possible. But the quality of the Pakistani attack, and Sri Lanka's narrow lead in the series, were such that, once the breakthrough was achieved, the shutters came down. The appearance of Samaraweera in his customary position at No. 5, ahead of the strokemakers Mathews and Perera, was the final proof. Hands were shaken nine overs from the scheduled close, confirming Misbah's first Test series defeat as captain.

"No one gave us a chance, even in the one-dayers," said Jayawardene. "I remember in the first press conference someone asked about a 4-1 win for Pakistan. But to come out winning the one-dayers and Test series, we should take a lot of credit."

Man of the Match: Asad Shafiq. Man of the Series: K. C. Sangakkara.

Close of play: first day, Sri Lanka 44-3 (Paranavitana 13); second day, no play; third day, Pakistan 27-1 (Mohammad Hafeez 8, Azhar Ali 6); fourth day, Pakistan 299-8 (Asad Shafiq 55, Adnan Akmal 0).

© John Wisden & Co.