Teenage fast bowler Mohammad Aamer led Pakistan’s spirited new-look attack to bowl out Sri Lanka for 292 on the opening day of the first Test in Galle, Sri Lanka, yesterday.
Pakistan were 15-2 in reply at stumps with skipper Younus Khan on 7 and nightwatchman Abdur Rauf yet to score after openers Salman Butt and Khurram Manzoor had fallen in the first four overs.
Butt was bowled by Nuwan Kulasekera off the second ball of the innings and Manzoor was trapped leg-before by Thilan Thushara to set up a thrilling contest ahead.
Aamer, a 17-year-old left-armer, grabbed three wickets and fellow debutant Rauf picked up two after Younus sent Sri Lanka in to bat on a wicket freshened up by early morning rain.
Younus himself took 2-23 while wicket keeper Kamran Akmal claimed four catches and a stumping as Sri Lanka slipped to 194-6 before the lower order fought back.
Left-handed opener Tharanga Paranavitana was Sri Lanka’s savior with 72, adding 75 for the third wicket with Mahela Jayawardene (30) and 43 for the fourth with Thilan Samaraweera (31).
Sri Lanka’s lone debutant, Angelo Mathews, boosted the tail with a sparkling 42 off 57 balls during a 47-run stand for the seventh wicket with Kulasekera, who made 38.
The three-match series is the first between the two nations since armed gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in the Pakistani city of Lahore on March 3 while the squad was en route to resume a Test match.
The attack injured seven Sri Lankan players and eight local security men were killed.
The match began less than a fortnight after Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 final in England on June 21.
Aamer, one of Pakistan’s heroes in the triumphant World Twenty20 campaign, justified his Test debut at the expense of seasoned all-rounder Abdur Razzaq.
The left-armer struck with the last ball of his first over in Test cricket when he bowled opener Malinda Warnapura for 2 as the batsman was beaten by pace and chopped the ball onto his off-stump.
The hosts slipped to 21-2 as Aamer removed skipper Kumar Sangakkara in his third over, forcing the star batsman to edge a short ball to Shoaib Malik at third slip.
Aamer should have had two more wickets but Malik dropped Paranavitana, then on 4, and Akmal let off Jayawardene before the batsman had scored a run.
Akmal made amends 90 minutes later when he snapped up Jayawardene off Rauf, but not before the former Sri Lankan captain had partnered Paranavitana in the rescue act.
Rauf had Paranavitana caught at first slip by Misbah-ul Haq in the middle of the post-lunch session, before Younus dismissed Samaraweera through a catch by the wicket keeper.
Aamer removed Tillakaratne Dilshan (28) with the first delivery after tea as Malik took a smart catch at gully to end a 34-run stand with Mathews.
Umar Gul, the only specialist bowler in Pakistan’s ranks with previous Test experience, earned his first success soon after and debutant off-spinner Saeed Ajmal claimed the last two wickets.
Meanwhile, veteran Sri Lankan seamer Chaminda Vaas yesterday refuted the chief selector’s claim that he wanted to retire from Test cricket, saying he had not taken any decision.
Chief selector Asantha de Mel had said earlier in the day that the 35-year-old left-armer did not want to play Test cricket, but was still available for one-day and Twenty20 cricket.