Sri Lanka reach 88 for two on curtailed 1st day

Pakistan picked up two early Sri Lankan wickets on a rain-curtailed opening day of the second Test which started here at the Arbab Niaz Stadium on Sunday.

Shoaib Akhtar clipped Sanath Jayasuriya's bail off a delivery which kept low and Abdur Razzaq removed Russel Arnold off an outswinger to reduce the tourists from 58 for no loss to 67 for two.

However, the in-form Marvan Atapattu and Aravinda de Silva batted cautiously to see Sri Lanka through to 88 for two at stumps from the 37 available overs in the final session.

Atapattu, batting on 29, was lucky to see off the day when a very confident bat and pad appeal against him was turned down by Englishman John Hampshire. However, television replays confirmed that the ball had caught the shoulder of Atapattu's bat while rebounding from the pad before going into the hands of a waiting Yousuf Youhana at forward short-leg.

De Silva, who played a match-winning knock of 112 in Rawalpindi, continued from where he had left by belting three exquisite boundaries in his 33-ball 18.

Earlier, two days of rains resulted in the loss of first two sessions play. The groundsmen did a wonderful job by making the ground ready for at least last session's play. Prospects of any play on the first day looked remote in the morning when small pools of water were visible in the outfield and the bowlers' run-up looked muddy and soggy.

The umpires - Hampshire and his Pakistani colleague Mohammad Nazir Junior - inspected the wicket and outfield four times before deciding at 1:15 p.m that the toss would be made at 2:30 p.m and the match would start 30 minutes later at 3:00 p.m.

The umpires have also decided to extend play by an hour in the remaining days of the match to make up for the time lost on Sunday. Play would now begin 30 minutes earlier (at 9.30 a.m) and end 30 minutes late, weather permitting, of course.

During the period while the groundsmen were trying to repair the damage caused by rain, Sri Lanka suffered a body blow when lanky left-arm pacer Nuwan Zoysa strained his back during a training session. He was placed by Ravindra Pushpakumara shortly before toss. Pushpakumara had taken five for 56 in the third Test at Harare against Zimbabwe which ended in a draw.

Pushpakumara was one of the two Sri Lankan changes, first being of Tillekeratne Dilshan for the injured Arjuna Ranatunga, who had flown home after the Rawalpindi Test.

Pakistan, meanwhile, made four changes in the team that went down fighting to Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi by two wickets.

Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Wajahatullah Wasti were left out - the first three because of injuries and illness. They were replaced by comeback fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, debutant wicket-keeper Atiq-uz-Zaman, off-spinner Arshad Khan and the crowd favourite Shahid Afridi.

Wasim was left out despite expressing his availability to the team management on Saturday.

"But I pulled out because I didn't get the opportunity to bowl here to convince myself and the selectors. I didn't want to take the field half-fit because I would have then have been just a liability like I was in Rawalpindi," Wasim said before leaving for Karachi.

He had bowled just 13 balls in Rawalpindi but scored a vital 79 in a record 145-run ninth wicket stand with Younis Khan.

Moin lost his battle against fever and had to miss his first match after 32 Tests in more than three-and-a-half years.

Moin's enforced absence provided an excellent opportunity to 24-year-old Atiq-uz-Zaman to earn a well deserved green cap and exhibit his potential behind the wickets. He passed the test on the opening day when he gathered the ball cleanly and also celebrated his debut Test by grabbing a regulation catch to dismiss Arnold.

Arshad Khan came in place of Saqlain Mushtaq while Pakistan added another bowling option by including Shahid Afridi who has taken five wickets on his debut against Australia in Karachi with his crafty leg-spinners with an occasional faster one.

Saeed Anwar won the toss for the fourth time in the series and again decided to field. He had won three tosses in the one-day series only to lose the rubber 3-0. In Rawalpindi, Pakistan were put into bat by Jayasuriya.

Saeed's decision to field turned out to be somewhat bewildering when he went on the defensive after just six overs into the match. In Waqar Younis's fourth over, Saeed removed one of the three slip fields and in the ninth over discarded another slip and placed a third-man and a sweeper.

Having decided to field first, one thought he would attack instead of going into a shell with the ball still new and in the background that both the Sri Lankan openers were caught in the arc behind the wickets in Rawalpindi.

But Intikhab Alam, team coach, defended Saeed's decision.

"We fielded first because we didn't knew how the wicket would behave," he said.

The pitch appears to have nothing much for the seamers as even express deliveries from Shoaib Akhtar were safely negotiated by Jayasuriya and Atapattu. But with odd ball remaining low, like the one which dismissed Jayasuriya, this wicket looks nothing but dodgy.

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