Sri Lanka succumbed to legspin yet again in the series, losing six wickets to the variety, and four of them to their tormentor Yasir Shah to crumble from a strong 106 for 1. Dimuth Karunaratne saw out the new ball on an unevenly grassy pitch in the morning, and dug in to make his second Test century, but fell to part-timer Azhar Ali just before the second one came. Rahat Ali, who had made the initial breakthrough as well, capped off a superb fightback from Pakistan by claiming Dinesh Chandimal leg-before on review in the penultimate over of the day.
Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga - playing his first Test in a year in place of the absent Kumar Sangakkara - had batted positively after the early loss of Kaushal Silva. As the zip began to ebb from the pitch, Sri Lanka were comfortably placed on 85 for 1 in 26 overs at lunch.
That comfort fell apart after the break. Pakistan tightened up considerably, the seamer Imran Khan bowling accurate lines and Yasir varying his lengths and angles. There was little in the day one pitch for Yasir, but the Sri Lanka middle order was tied down by his combination of flight, accuracy and control. The runs dried up, only 21 coming in the first nine overs after lunch.
Tharanga, on 46, attempted to counter with an expansive drive without moving his feet, and the ball popped up off the keeper to be taken by a diving slip. Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews tried hitting out, and only went as far as mid-off and mid-on, to depart in successive Yasir overs. Sri Lanka went to tea 3 for 68 off 27 overs in the second session.
Karunaratne and Jehan Mubarak, playing his first Test since 2007, managed somewhat of a recovery around the tea interval. Yasir understandably flagged during a 22-over spell on the trot. The pitch eased up further. Karunaratne calmly kept collecting runs, using his feet to spin and punching the seamers through the off side.
Yasir was reintroduced as soon as Karunaratne reached his century, off 188 balls, and Mubarak, who had been timing the ball alright, suddenly jumped out and was stumped.
The trend was to continue against Azhar too. Even as the second new ball approached and another stand developed between Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, it was the former's turn to charge and be found short of his ground on 130.
Sri Lanka had undid all the good work they had started in the first session. Pakistan's new-ball pair of Rahat and Ehsan Adil did not make the batsmen play enough at the start, and Rahat was on the shorter side often, especially to the left-handers. When Pakistan did pitch it up on tighter lines, they caused discomfort with zip and movement, and drew edges, none of which carried to their misfortune.
The way Tharanga bats, he was bound to be beaten pushing half-forward outside the off stump. The way Tharanga bats, he was also going to get runs as long as he was in the middle. A couple of boundaries off his preferred back foot forced Rahat out of the attack.
Karunaratne was more cautious early in his innings, choosing to play out deliveries from the crease. When he edged, he did so with soft hands. When he drove, he went straight and firm down the ground.
There was a review against him for leg-before off Imran when he was on 12, but the third umpire upheld the on-field not-out call without checking the ball tracker, suggesting he had detected an inside edge.
When Yasir was brought on in the 17th over, Karunaratne stepped out first ball to clip it to the deep midwicket boundary, and continued to do that against spin through his innings.
With the pitch easing out towards lunch, Pakistan tried the bouncer, but Tharanga and Karunaratne were not bothered. It was Yasir, helped by another legspinner, who were to cause all the trouble again.