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The first day of the third test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was a perfect exhibition of test cricket at its best. Thisara Perera made brilliant use of a lively pitch and with an inspired bowling performance, picked up four specialist batsmen to peg back the visitors. Asad Shafiq showed high levels of grit during his patient knock of 75 that led his side to a decent 226 all out. Junaid Khan then produced one of the best bowling spells in recent times to pick up two wickets and finally Mohammad Sami dismissed Mahela Jayawardene as Sri Lanka ended Day 1 at 44-3, leaving he game wide open.
The two Asian giants Sri Lanka and Pakistan met for one final time in the longest format of the game at Pallekele to start the action in the third and final test of the series . The visitors batted miserably in the first game to hand the hosts a comfortable victory but they came good in the second game only to be denied a victory by unfortunate weather and that left the series precariously placed at 1-0.
Mahela Jayawardene won the toss yet again and he chose to bowl saying he was definitely sure this time that there was something in it for the bowlers as the pitch had been under covers for the past few days. Tillakaratne Dilshan asked to sit out of this game due to personal reasons and that paved way for Dinesh Chandimal to open the innings. Thisara Perera and Dilhara Fernando also made it to the side in place of Nuwan Pradeep and Suraj Randiv. Pakistan made a couple of changes to their bowling unit as well bringing in Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami axing Abdur Rehman and Aizaz Cheema in the process.
The Lankan opening bowlers Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara kept things simple by bowling in the corridor of uncertainty and moving the ball both ways at will. It was definitely causing the batsmen problems and there were many close calls and near misses. The Pakistan openers though managed to play some good shots and got off to a decent start and their cause was helped when Tharanga Paranavitana failed to latch on to an outside edge off Taufeeq Umar early on.
Things then fell into place for the hosts when Perera set Mohammad Hafeez up beautifully, knocking him over with a surprise inswinger on 22 after bowling a series of outswingers. Azhar Ali and Younis Khan both perished soon after to the swinging ball for ducks, to Perera and Kulasekara respectively. Taufeeq Umar stayed on for some time but was eventually caught plumb in front of his stumps on 29 by Perera and that had the visitors in deep trouble at 56-4.
Asad Shafiq and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq joined forces after that and batted with utmost caution by blocking the balls on target and letting the ones outside the stumps to pass. They didnâ€™t score at a healthy rate but they fulfilled their topmost priority by stemming the fall of wickets to safely negotiate the period before lunch to take their side to 81-4 at the end of the first session.
The duo carried forward their good work after the lunch break too as they continued to be watchful while occasionally putting away the bad balls to the fence. After a while, they grew in confidence and the boundaries were coming a lot easier. This prompted the Lankan pacers to bowl wide outside the line of offstump and the batsmen were forced to leave them alone. Eventually Misbah ran out of patience on 40 and he edged one through to the keeper to hand Perera his fourth wicket of the day.
Adnan Akmal walked in and hit a couple of delightful boundaries but he clearly wasnâ€™t prepared for the short stuff as he hurt his little finger when Dilhara Fernando banged one in. He braved the pain for a couple of balls during which Shafiq reached his half century but he retired hurt due to the lingering pain. Mohammad Sami was sent in to see off the couple of overs before Tea and he ensured there were no more hiccups and that ended a much better session for the visitors who recovered to172-5.
Sami fell soon after tea and Akmal reemerged from the dressing room to come out and bat. He hit a couple of boundaries and looked in good touch before his stumps were disturbed on 24 when he missed the ball completely, trying to sweep Rangana Herath. Shafiq tried his best to hold the innings together by shielding the tail-enders after Gul fell on 7 but he gloved one to the keeper to perish for a well made 75. After that, it was just a matter of time before the visitors folded for a modest 226.
Akmal was taken to the hospital to nurse his finger and that left Umar behind the stumps for Pakistan. Umar Gul and Junaid Khan opened the bowling and they were right on the money. It was no wonder Chandimal and Paranavitana were feeling the heat against quality bowling. The scoreboard was hardly ticking and there were numerous appeals and edges that the batsmen were lucky to survive.
Khan then reaped the benefit of some tight bowling when the umpire finally raised his finger as the bowler got one hold its line which caught Chandimal (8) in front while trying to play for an outswinger. Kumar Sangakkara survived a couple of loud appeals before being cleaned up in the same over for a duck.
Mahela Jayawardene walked in and along with Paranavitana was very watchful not to hand any more wickets to the opening bowlers. Comeback man Mohammad Sami was tried out at the fag end of the day and he struck gold with a yorker that dismissed big fish Jayawardene for 12 to conclude Day 1.
The big wicket right at the end of the day leaves the game evenly poised and we should be in for a cracking day of Test cricket tomorrow.
Sri Lanka: D Chandimal, T Paranavitana, K Sangakkara, M Jayawardene (c), T Samaraweera, A Mathews, P Jayawardene (wk), T Perera, N Kulasekara, R Herath, D Fernando
Pakistan: T Umar, M Hafeez, A Ali, Y Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (c),A Shafiq, A Akmal(wk), S Ajmal, U Gul, M Sami, J Khan
Pakistan 226 all out (72.5 overs, 3.1 rpo)
A Shafiq 75 (158) T Perera 4-63
Misbah-ul-Haq 40 (95) R Herath 3-40
Sri Lanka 44-3 (14.4 overs, 3 rpo)
T Paranavitana 13*(32) J Khan 2-15
M Jayawardene12 (24) M Sami 1-2
- 11/07/2012 15:41 - Sri Lanka favourites to win the series despite Azhar Ali ton on Day 4 in Pallekele
- 10/07/2012 10:50 - Perera powers Sri Lanka to 111 run lead, Pakistan 27-1 in second innings
- 09/07/2012 17:29 - Rain washes out Day 2 of Pallekele Test