- Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 1st day
SL batsmen fail to capitalise on bowlers' success
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The SSC and Pallekele could well be on two different continents, such was the contrast in the nature of their pitches. After the highway at the SSC last week, the moisture in the Pallekele pitch - increased by the rain before the Test - and a hint of grass gave Sri Lanka's attack early encouragement that lasted into the final session, justifying the home team's decision to bowl first. The new ball was a powerful weapon, employed expertly by Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara, who also stood out for their stamina and helped their team have the better of most of the first day.
But it was used more menacingly by Pakistan's fast bowlers, whose extra pace and difficult angles produced wickets and plenty of nervous moments for the batsmen. Pakistan's 226 may be below-par, but an incisive spell in the final hour led by Junaid Khan revived their spirits and boosted hopes of a strong comeback.
Sri Lanka are without their centurion from the first two Tests, Tillakaratne Dilshan, on leave to be with his unwell children. The openers Dinesh Chandimal and Tharanga Paranavitana were given a working over by Junaid and Umar Gul, who moved it both ways, beat the edge and struck them repeatedly on the pads. Junaid was more lethal when he went round the wicket in the sixth over, angling it in and then nipping it away from the right-hander. Chandimal was fooled when he was trapped in front with one that held its line.
Kumar Sangakkara, fresh from missing two double-centuries in a row, was consigned to a duck the same over - done in by movement inward off the pitch, beaten through the gate twice, one an lbw not given and the other pegging back off stump. Gul should have had Paranavitana lbw but when Mahela Jayawardene failed to get his bat down to a Mohammad Sami yorker in the day's last over - after the batsmen's delaying tactics failed to meet their desired objective - Pakistan were back in it.
Among their batsmen, only Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq put up any significant resistance; the others were out-thought by Sri Lanka's bowlers, armed with movement, swing and discipline. Perera and Kulasekara bowling spells of nine and 10 overs respectively in the first session, in which the bulk of the damage was inflicted.
The first sign of hope for the seamers appeared on the first ball, when Kulasekara swung one prodigiously and moved it further towards the batsman off the pitch. Perera mostly moved the ball the other way, and bowled fuller, creating more chances. It helped that the Pakistan openers also batted positively, though were edgy against deliveries bowled in the channel outside off.
Taufeeq was the luckier of the two. Kulasekara attacked with three slips, a gully and a short leg, and removed the option of Taufeeq walking down the track to counter the swing as he had done at the SSC, by having the keeper standing up to the stumps. As he moved it away, Taufeeq was dropped at first slip, and then had an edge fly past gully.
In the eighth over, Perera beat Hafeez with one that held its line before inducing a leading edge when he tried to work it square. Perera had his reward shortly after, as he slipped in a fuller delivery, had Hafeez playing forward and slightly away from his body, not expecting the ball to swing and then dart back in to clean him up through the gate. In his next over, Perera targeted Azhar Ali, unsettling him with an inswinger, then beating him completely with the away-going delivery and having him driving straight to gully off the next ball.
Kulasekara dislodged Younis Khan in similar fashion, following up an indipper with one in the corridor that prompted Younis to feather a low catch to the keeper. When Taufeeq played down the wrong line, trying to force Perera through midwicket to be trapped in front, an ardous task lay ahead for Misbah and the middle order to rebuild.
Misbah and Shafiq were reasonably adept against the spin of Rangana Herath and a shorter length bowled by the other two seamers - Dilhara Fernando, on his 17th comeback to the Test side, and Angelo Mathews. Under a good spell of sunshine, the Pakistan pair batted determinedly, leaving several deliveries outside off while at the same time capitalising on width as the swing disappeared and movement receded.
Shafiq drove well but was more confident against the short balls, with Fernando providing a healthy supply. Both batsmen used their feet to Herath, Misbah charging down the wicket twice to dispatch him through midwicket, and Shafiq pinching the singles while also collecting boundaries through point. When Perera returned for a new spell, they opened the face and played the ball down past the slips and gully. Misbah, though,hung his bat out to a much wider delivery that left him, edging a catch to Prasanna Jayawardene after an 85-run stand, giving Perera his best Test figures.
Harsh on width and elegant with balls pitched on the pads, Shafiq scored heavily square of the wicket, the flick and the cut - despite a deep point - producing the bulk of his boundaries. Support was lacking at the other end, however. Adnan Akmal was struck on the ring finger of his left hand by Fernando after warming up with a couple of fours, had to retire hurt and the pain would have been playing on his mind when he returned. He threw his wicket away, bowled off an audacious sweep against Herath, who also got the ball to bite off the track. One such delivery accounted for Shafiq, who edged behind, and stopped Pakistan's recovery short of what they had hoped for.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo