Poor conditions hampered Sri Lanka’s quest to win the second Test against Pakistan, as a session was lost to heavy rain on Day 4.
A solid bowling performance from Sri Lanka saw Pakistan skittled out for 329 in their second innings, with a determined century from Azhar Ali helping the tourists to a 152-run lead. But before the hosts could begin their response, the heavens opened and play was called for the day at tea.
It means there will be an early start on Monday, as Sri Lanka look to level up the series at 1-1.
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After limping to 138 in their first innings, some diligent batting from Ahmed Shehzhad and Ali gave Pakistan a foothold in this match. Although the former was dismissed late on Day 3, the tourists were well placed to build a lead, beginning Sunday on 171 for two.
Initially, with Younis Khan, playing in his 100th Test match, batting alongside the well set Ali, Pakistan seemed poised to do exactly that, scoring freely in the opening exchanges. But the wicket of Khan for 40 gave Sri Lanka hope and they began to reassert their control on the match.
As noted here by PakPassion.net, even after the positive strides made on Day 3, there was still plenty of work to be done after the early loss:
Pakistan suddenly started to toil, as Misbah-ul-Haq (22) and Asad Shafiq (27) were both dismissed after making starts. At 274 for five, Sri Lanka would have been sensing a potential four-day finish. But Ali, a picture of composure and consistency, was holding things together for his team at the other end.
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He went to a well deserved century and as noted here by ESPN Cricinfo, typically that is a good omen for Pakistan:
Unfortunately for visitors, it was a streak that was looking increasingly unlikely to continue, as Sri Lanka’s bowlers got stuck into the lower order. After picking up the key wickets of Shehzhad and Misbah earlier in the innings, it was Dhammika Prasad doing most of the damage for Sri Lanka.
The fast bowler snaffled the remaining recognised batsmen in the Pakistan lineup, with the dangerous Sarfraz Ahmed and fearless Yasir Shah falling for 16 and zero, respectively. Eventually, Prasad finished up with figures of four for 92 and he’ll have been delighted to have struck at vital times throughout a tense day.
Then, when Ali was finally out for 117 when trying to up the ante, the end of the Pakistan innings looked to be imminent. As noted by Bishen Jeswant of ESPNcricinfo at the end of this mammoth knock, Ali is a batsman who loves to take his time at the crease:
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While this had helped Pakistan to this point, without the diligent batsman in situ, the tail had become badly exposed. Indeed, after Ali departed Pakistan only added 16 more runs before being bowled out for 329, giving the hosts a target of 153 to win the Test match.
Tea was called early after the wicket, but the players did not emerge from their dressing rooms as heavy rain began to pour. With no sign of improvement, the action was called off for the day and as we can see here courtesy of cricket writer Andrew Fernando, it was easy to see why:
More poor conditions are forecast for Monday and Sri Lanka will be a little concerned about not getting enough time to chase down a meagre score. It’s vital for the hosts that they pick up a victory here and give themselves a chance of winning the series in the final Test.
Pakistan will be thankful for the watchful knock played by Ali, as he held together a ropey batting effort on Day 4. They’ll be praying for more rain on Monday as they bid to secure a draw and maybe, with Sri Lanka likely to try to score quickly given the threat of poor weather, fancy their chances of notching a shock win too.