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An intriguing third day of the third and final test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka witnessed plenty of momentum swings with the hosts coasting to 187-3 on the back of a pair of seventies from Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilan Samaraweera, before another 5-wicket haul from young speedster Junaid Khan brought Pakistan right back in the contest. However, some late lusty blows from Thisara Perera (75) saw Sri Lanka squeeze out a massive 111 run lead and take control of this test match and with it the series which they already lead 1-0. A bonus early wicket of Taufeeq Umar late in the day meant that Pakistan have it all to do to rescue the series over the next two days.
After an entire day's play was lost due to the rains, the action finally got underway again on the third morning of the Pallekele Test. Resuming from 44-3 in pursuit of 226, Sri Lanka's fate rested in the hands of two batsmen who had had rather disappointing series thus far in Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilan Samaraweera.
The duo braved through a tough opening hour with the Pakistani pacers very much on song, however, once they got through that early tricky period, run scoring became easier and the cricket from the home fans' perspective, a lot more enjoyable.
Paranavitana brought up a much needed half-century in the final over of the session, cutting a loose delivery from Younis Khan to the point boundary. Those were the last runs scored in the session as lunch was called with Sri Lanka comfortably placed at 142-3, thanks to an unbeaten 98 run stand between Paranavitana (52*) and Samaraweera (45*).
The second session for large periods of time appeared to be heading the same way as the first with Pakistan's pacers continuing to be rather luckless, while Sri Lanka's two set batsmen extended their partnership further. The usually reliable Younis Khan gave Samaraweera a life, dropping him at second slip, and the Lankan middle order man took advantage to power forward.
The 4th wicket partnership was worth 143 when it was finally broken with Samaraweera trapped in front of his stumps for 73 by Saeed Ajmal. One wicket brought two more with Angelo Mathews falling for 9, caught in the gully off Junaid Khan, before Ajmal struck for a second time in the day with Paranavitana also falling in the seventies (75), chopping one back onto his stumps.
A rejuvenated Pakistan took tea with the Lankans pegged back at 220-6, still 6 runs shy of their visitor's first innings score, and there being every chance that their lead could be kept down to double digits.
An early end to the Lankan innings looked possible when Umar Gul struck instantly with the second new ball to send back Prasanna Jayawardene for 20 to reduce Sri Lanka to 236-7. However, an incredible 84 run 8th wicket stand between Thisara Perera (75) and Nuwan Kulasekara (33) put the hosts firmly on top.
Perera smashed 4 fours and 3 sixes in an 86-ball effort worth 75, while Kulasekara chipped in with 4 boundaries of his own to ensure a massive momentum shift. The Lankan innings was finally wrapped up for 337 with Junaid Khan taking a second successive five wicket haul, but not before the hosts had taken a 111 run lead.
The two Sri Lankan quicks bowled an erratic couple of early overs, giving away some free runs before Kulasekara struck in his second over to trap Taufeeq Umar in front of his stumps for 4. It was a poor decision from Umpire Simon Taufel, with the ball clearly pitching outside the left-hander's legstump.
Only a few overs of play were possible thereafter, and Pakistan made their way to 27-1 in the 6 overs possible before stumps were called.
Sri Lanka have firmly put themselves in the driver's seat in this test match, and with two days still left to play, will fancy their chances of wrapping up the series 2-0.
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 1st Innings 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 1st Innings 337 all out (100.2 overs, 3.35 rpo)
T Paranavitana 52*(110) J Khan 5-70
T Samaraweera 73 (160) S Ajmal 3-66
Pakistan 2nd Innings 27/1 (6 overs, 4.5 rpo)
M Hafeez 8* (15) N Kulasekara 1-9
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