Azhar Ali once more rescued Pakistan’s batting with a fighting half century on the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The one-drop batsman was unbeaten on 74 but saw Babar Azam fell for 28 in the last over of the day as Pakistan finished on 266-4 on a Sheikh Zayed Stadium pitch which has started to assist spinners.
Pakistan still trail the Sri Lankan first innings total of 419 by 153 runs with six wickets intact.
Pakistan had pinned their hopes on Ali in the post Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq era who retired in May this year after shouldering team’s batting for nearly seven years.
A cautious Ali made sure Pakistan do not concede a big lead in the first innings, having hit only one boundary in his 26th Test half century.
In all Ali has so far hit three boundaries during his 297 minutes of batting. He added 79 for the third wicket with Asad Shafiq who made 39 to take the figth to Sri Lankan three-pronged spin attack.
Veteran left-arm spinner Herath was the most successful bowler with 2-47.
When on 32, Ali also completed 5,000 Test runs in his 61st Test. He became the eighth Pakistan batsmen behind Younis Khan (10,099), Javed Miandad (8832) Inzamam-ul-Haq (8829), Mohammad Yousuf (7530), Salim Malik (5768), Misbah (5222) and Zaheer Abbas (5062) to reach the milestone.
But it was the opening pair of Shan Masood and Sami Aslam who set the platform for a big total by putting together a solid 114-run opening stand after they resumed at 64 without loss.
Sri Lanka, however, hit back by removing both openers in the space of two runs.
Aslam, recalled after being dropped from the West Indies tour on disciplinary grounds earlier this year, was trapped leg-before by off-break bowler Dilruwan Perera. He hit four boundaries in his seventh Test half century.
Two runs later Masood attempted a sweep shot off the wily Herath but missed the ball and was bowled round his legs.
Pakistan had luck on their side with the reviews as both Ali and Shafiq survived confident appeals. Ali wisely reviewed a leg-before decision off Perera, but the ball hit his bat before the pad.
Shafiq was given not out on a review when he was stumped off Herath on one.
It was Herath who finally dislodged Shafiq when a sharp turner caught an edge off Shafiq’s bat, deflected from wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella’s thigh to slip where Lahiru Thirimanne took the catch.
Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara has called time on his distinguished first-class cricket career.
The 39-year-old had retired from international cricket in 2015 after scoring 12,400 runs in 134 matches and 14,234 runs in 404 ODIs.
The classical left-handed batsman has continued to play first-class cricket in the County Championship and has had a remarkable season with Surrey this campaign.
Sangakkara has been the highest scored in either divisions of the County Championship this season scoring 1491 runs in 16 innings along with eight first-class hundreds.
He also completed a century of centuries in all formats of the game after his ton in the quarter-final win over Yorkshire in the One-Day Cup.
The fifth-highest run-scorer of all time in the Test format remained unbeaten on 35 in his final first-class innings on Wednesday against Lancashire.
That the Sri Lankan has averaged over 106 runs in the County Championship Division One is testament to the fact that the left-hander could easily continue to play for another year at least.
But Sangakarra has always been a man to retire on a high and his first-class career was no different.
“Sometimes you hold on a bit too long and I always think it’s better to let go a bit sooner than later,” he said in an interview with BBC Sports on Thursday.
“I walk away with a few regrets, like anyone would, but I’m absolutely happy with the way I played the game and what I’ve achieved.
“The game goes on and that’s the beauty of any sport. It doesn’t matter who retires or who comes into play – the sport will be bigger than all of us,” he added.
The 35-run knock in his final innings means Sangakarra retires with a first-class total of just under 21,000 runs. He is second only to Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar for the most amount of runs in international cricket in all formats.
The left-handed batsman has 28,016 runs compared to Tendulkar’s 34,357 runs.
Though he says he will miss cricket, in the end it is the sport which will be a little poorer without the classy Sri Lankan doing what he does best inside the batting-crease.
England cruised to a nine-wicket victory against the West Indies in the fifth and final one-day international in Southampton on Friday to seal a 4-0 series win.
The tourists, seeking to end a long sequence of defeats against England, posted 288 for six despite becoming bogged down after a thrilling Chris Gayle cameo, with Shai Hope (72) the top-scorer.
England’s Jason Roy (96) and Jonny Bairstow put on 156 for the first-wicket in reply, with Bairstow ending up unbeaten on 141.
After another dominant display by Morgan’s men, we look at the key talking points from the Aegas Bowl in Southampton.
The Jamaican has got off to a flying start in almost every match of the series so far but has failed to register a big score. On Friday, he did not exactly set the world alight in the initial stages of his innings.
The left-handed batsman was uncharacteristically watchful under overcast conditions as he did not pick a single run off the first 14 deliveries he faced.
It was England seamer Jake Ball who would then face the brunt of Gayle’s assault as he was carted for three massive sixes off the last three deliveries of his third over.
Ball returned for his fourth and faced almost a similar result off his first three deliveries as the West Indies opener collected two sixes and a boundary.
In the end, debutant Tom Curran outfoxed the Caribbean batsman with a brilliant back of the hand slower delivery to pick up his first ODI wicket.
Gayle was early into his shot as he tried to clear the ropes again as Liam Plunkett completed a stunning full-length diving catch while running back from mid-off.
Chris Gayle starting to provide some entertainment here!
WI 33/0 after 6 overs #EngvWI
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 29, 2017
After Gayle and Kyle Hope started effectively, their dismissals brought Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels to the crease.
The pair had to be increasingly cautious as England spinners Moeen Ali and Abdul Rashid dried up the runs for the visitors.
The two spinners bowled with excellent control as Samuels and Hope put up a 50-run partnership in 16 overs. The pressure was building on the two batsmen and it finally told in the 32nd over when Samuels charged down the track to an Ali delivery.
The England off-spinner threw down a straighter one evading the outside edge of the batsman, leaving wicket-keeper Jos Buttler with all the time in the world to remove to bails.
Rashid got into the wickets himself when he had West Indies’ stand-in skipper Mohammed miscuing a slog to Joe Root at long-off as West Indies lost their way in the middle-overs.
Rashid would finish with figures of 1-42 off his 10 overs while Ali would return with 1-36 off his complete quota to take the edge off the visitors’ batting.
The 27-year-old opening batsman has been out of sorts with the bat lately. He had registered only 68 runs in his previous nine innings at the top for England coming into this series.
That awful run saw Roy replaced by Jonny Bairstow in the first three matches and it was only Alex Hales suspension that earned him a recall into the playing eleven for the fourth ODI.
Roy made the most of his second-life as he recorded a 66-ball 84 in England’s win at the Oval. He continued in the same vein on Friday as he opened the innings with Bairstow. The South Africa born batsman looked in supreme touch from the start as he timed the ball to perfection in customary style.
The right-handed batsman hit 11 boundaries and a massive six as he put together a 150-run plus opening stand along with his partners to all but seal the game for the hosts.
Roy was well on course for his fourth international hundred but unfortunately fell just four-runs short of the mark after missing a straight delivery from medium-pacer Miguel Cummins to be trapped plumb on the pads.
Bairstow may milk the headlines for his second century of the series but Roy’s return to form will bode well for England in the long-run.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 29, 2017