If evidence was needed to show how mercurial Pakistan can be, it was provided emphatically in the final Test against Sri Lanka, with the hosts turning the tables in style on the third day.
Sri Lanka were in the ascendancy after grabbing a vital 80-run first innings lead on the second day, but they now stare at the prospect of a near improbable fourth-innings run chase on a Karachi pitch which could crumble any time.
Pakistan, who had been bundled out for a mere 191 in the first innings, were dominant on a day where they lost just two wickets. Even out of form skipper Azhar Ali brought up an unbeaten half-century on a day where Sri Lanka’s bowlers were sent on a leather hunt.
By the time stumps were drawn, the hosts had reached a commanding 395-2 with their overall second innings lead standing at 315.
Abid Ali adds to his star with yet another ton
It was an afternoon which belonged to one man – Abid Ali – with the opener following up his debut ton in Rawalpindi with an even better display in Karachi. While his century on debut in the first Test had been more of a battling one than a free-flowing knock, there was nothing scratchy about his performance on Saturday.
The right-hander was in assertive mode and looked in supreme control as he imposed his authority on the Sri Lanka bowlers. The Karachi pitch was doing all sorts of things for the bowlers on the first and second days, but it turned completely benign on Day Three with the willow overpowering the red-ball emphatically.
Abid Ali was equally at ease against both spinners and pacers in a 174-run innings which contained one six and as many as 21 boundaries. The 32-year-old has had to wait a long time to get his chance at international level and that hunger and desperation to prove a point has reflected in his two Test appearances so far.
The first batsman in the world to register centuries on ODI and Test debuts, Abid has now become the first Pakistan man to slam tons in both of his first two Test outings. If he keeps going like this, he could become Pakistan’s very own Michael Hussey.
Shan Masood joins in on the run-fest
Having followed his duck in Rawalpindi with a score of just five in the first innings in Karachi, fellow opener Shan Masood was under pressure to put up some runs on Saturday. Cashing in on the excellent batting conditions on offer, Masood did exactly that as he brought up his second Test ton.
The left-hander put his recent poor patch of form behind him in a composed innings that was brimming with attacking intent. Masood took the attack to the spinners in his 198-ball stay at the crease and thumped three big sixes in a brilliant knock.
He shared a mammoth 278-run stand for the first wicket alongside Abid Ali, with the duo putting Sri Lanka’s bowlers to the sword in imperious fashion. It is the now the second highest Test opening partnership for Pakistan with only the 294 runs put up by Ijaz Ahmed and Aamer Sohail against Windies at the same venue in 1997 being better.
Masood’s innings was ultimately ended by a miscued pull shot off Lahiru Kumara, but not before the opener had attained his highest Test score of 135.
Sri Lanka lose the initiative on harrowing day
Little did Sri Lanka expect what would befall them on Day Three after a crucial 74-run knock from Dinesh Chandimal had put them in the driving seat on Friday. Their bowlers, particularly Lahiru Kumara, had been extremely threatening in the first innings with Pakistan’s batsmen finding it tough to cope at the crease.
However, the zip observed then in Karachi went completely missing on Sunday, and with it perhaps Sri Lanka’s hopes of a series victory. While Kumara did have fleeting moments of brilliance and two wickets to show for it, there wasn’t much else to cheer for Sri Lanka on a gruelling day in the field.
Both Kumara and fellow pacer Vishwa Fernando leaked runs while Lasith Embuldeniya’s spin was negotiated with ease as well. Veteran Dilruwan Perera wasn’t able to bring any control to proceedings either, with Abid and Masood driving Sri Lanka’s attack into the ground with impunity.
It is now hard to see Sri Lanka come away from the Test with anything but a defeat, unless they can put up a heroic batting display on the penultimate and final days of the clash.
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