Sri Lanka rode Dinesh Chandimal’s slow-burn 155 not out to 419 – their best total in six Tests – before Pakistan’s openers moved to 64 unbeaten by stumps. Though the match is more or less in the balance, thanks to Pakistan’s resurgence in the third session, Sri Lanka will also be pleased with their day’s work. Their fans had hoped their team would suck less in this series than they had against India; only the very optimistic would have thought them capable of failing to suck for quite this length of time.
Had their tail scrapped together 50 further runs after going to tea at 403 for 7, Sri Lanka could even have claimed to be in control of the contest. As it happened, Mohammad Abbas wiped out the lower order with reverse swing, before Shan Masood and Sami Aslam progressed steadily in the final 80 minutes of play. The left-arm wristspin of Lakshan Sandakan posed them occasional problems, but the remaining bowlers were comfortably negotiated.
But although Chandimal would have slept much easier if Sri Lanka had had a breakthrough, this was nevertheless his day. He was somewhat inert in the morning session, hitting two runs off his first 20 balls, but warmed to his work eventually, moving from 60 to 109 inside the extended first session. Where at other times, Chandimal has celebrated a triple-figure score by completing a lap of the field, more or less, this was a more restrained celebration, to go with the mature ethos of the innings. At times, he was barely watchable, deadbatting ball after ball, and poking unambitiously to fielders, but the innings was invaluable to his team. The slow rate of his progress also means Yasir Shah – Sri Lanka’s tormentor in the 2015 series between these sides – has been made to deliver a mammoth 57 overs. Sri Lanka have had moderate success after tiring Yasir out, in the past.
After lunch, when Sri Lanka sought to gain a tighter grip on the match, Chandimal briefly showcased his old adventurous avatar. Dusting off his rapid reverse-sweep, he slapped Yasir behind point for four. Next ball, he socked him over mid off for another four.
In the morning, Chandimal had left the lion’s share of run-scoring to Niroshan Dickwella. Having begun the day on 42, Dickwella needed only four balls to progress to his fifty. He was not, on this occasion, reckless, as he sometimes tends to be. Merely positive: constantly searching for scoring opportunities – particularly the singles and twos. Balls skidded past the cordon after taking a thick outside edge, other deliveries were scythed to the backward-point rope, and when Yasir came into the attack, Dickwella even ventured the reverse-sweep against the turn, and collected a boundary with that shot. Generally, though, he seemed the more comfortable of the two men at the crease. That is, until he got to 83 – his highest Test score – and Hasan Ali got one to jag in off the seam. The ball would take the inside edge and clatter into the stumps. The stand between himself and his captain had been worth 134, and would remain the best of the innings.
For Pakistan, the first two sessions contained several significant frustrations. Twice they thought they had Dilruwan Perera, having kept him scoreless for 32 balls. Both times, the umpire had ruled him out lbw, only for reviews to show Perera had edged the ball both times – incredibly faintly on the second occasion. In fact, Perera had himself seemed unaware that the bat made contact, and only reviewed because he thought the ball was missing the stumps. Umpire Richard Kettleborough even showed obvious displeasure at his colleague’s over-turning of his on-field decision.
Eventually, Perera would be out lbw off Haris Sohail, but not before he had contributed 33 runs to a sixth-wicket stand of 92. Beyond that stand though, there was little of note for Sri Lanka. Yasir had Rangana Herath caught reverse-sweeping, before Abbas provided a dramatic finish to the innings. Having bowled Chandimal off a no-ball early in his 27th over, he would go on to dismiss Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep off successive deliveries. That means when Abbas bowls in the second innings, he will be on a hat-trick. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)