Match Analysis

Are you ready for another great Galle drama?

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan is a rivalry that is full to bursting with final day fun and this match is no exception

Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam's stand was worth 101 runs, but Babar's wicket gives Sri Lanka a sniff  •  AFP/Getty Images

Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam's stand was worth 101 runs, but Babar's wicket gives Sri Lanka a sniff  •  AFP/Getty Images

Are we ready for this? A nerve-wracking final day? Come out from behind the couch. You can face this. Let's do it together.
The facts
Pakistan need only 120 runs, and have seven wickets in hand. One of the not out batters is centurion Abdullah Shafique. Since coming on the scene, he's quelled a bowling attack containing Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon. Now he's got a fourth-innings hundred in Galle. As far as fourth-innings hundreds go, this is one of the toughest assignments. Only three batters have ever done it here before, and only one (Dimuth Karunaratne in 2019) in a victory.
The pitch
Generally, on days four and five, the surface at Galle is not so much a cricket pitch as much as an altar on which batters are sacrificed to the spin gods. We've seen big turn from the first day of this Test, but when Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, and Babar Azam were batting on day four, the pitch didn't seem to be providing the kind of rapid, unplayable turn that is often a feature here.
That is until the last 10 overs of the day, in which Shafique and Babar - who were sailing - suddenly hit a wall, and the Great Galle Spinmonster stirred from its slumber. Prabath Jayasuriya and Maheesh Theekshana suddenly had the ball spitting - basically pouncing out of the rough like terrifying lionesses at helpless gazelle fawns. This big turn got Babar out. He tried to pad away a delivery that pitched way outside the line of the stumps and was bowled - not un-embarassingly - behind his legs.
Even Shafique, who was on triple figures, played out the last few overs meekly.
The bowlers
What Pakistan's top order have done so far is play Jayasuriya well. They've been patient against him, but have watched intently for that straighter ball, that got several batters in trouble in that first innings. Although he's taken three five-wicket hauls, Jayasuriya is in only his second Test, and is unused to the task of bowling Sri Lanka to victory. Ramesh Mendis, ostensibly the most-senior spinner, is only in his ninth Test. Maheesh Theekshana is in his second as well.
They'll start on day five under substantial pressure, but they'll have a shiny new ball in hand. The theory is that the new ball, with its hard seam, turns more on these pitches than the older one. Whether this is true or not, it forms the hope Sri Lanka cling desperately to.
The history
The last time Pakistan played a Test on the island they chased 377 at Pallekele, thanks largely to Younis Khan's all-time mastery, with strong support from Shan Masood, and Misbah-ul-Haq. But that was a very different kind of surface, on which both teams fielded three specialist quicks. By the fourth innings, the juice had left it, and it had flattened out.
At Galle, the most comparable match is the 2009 Test between these teams, which Pakistan began with 87 to get, and eight wickets in hand, until Rangana Herath gobbled up the batting line-up wholesale. Sri Lanka won that by 50 runs.
There's no Herath in Sri Lanka's attack anymore, though. Though there's also no Younis in Pakistan's batting order.
The fans
Look. We get it. Pakistan fans perhaps feel they have the market cornered on drama. Against Sri Lanka, though, this is not necessarily true. There have been wild results - matches they had no business winning, losses they had no business even contemplating, match-winning innings from unwinnable situations, primary-school level fielding errors, and weapons-grade bowling stupidity. It's all there. These narratives belong to both sets of fans. Whatever takes place tomorrow, there are enough bonkers cricketing memories here for it to be typical Pakistan. Or typical Sri Lanka.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf