Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took two wickets in an over to check Sri Lanka’s victory bids on the fourth day of the third and final cricket Test against Pakistan at Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium yesterday.
The wily spinner dismissed Angelo Mathews (13) and Kaushala Silva (0) in the final hour to stop Sri Lanka, who were on the right track after half-centuries by Tharanaga Paranavitana and Kumar Sangakkara.
Sri Lanka, aiming to level the three-Test series after losing the second Test in Dubai by nine wickets, are set to seek some quick runs early today, with Paranavitana unbeaten on 66 and Kosala Kulasekera on four not out.
They lead by 237 runs with five wickets intact on a weary pitch, which helped the spinners as Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Abdul Rehman troubled the batsman with spin and deliveries that kept low.
The first Test in Abu Dhabi ended in a draw.
Paranavitana, dropped on two and 25, batted valiantly to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt as they lost Tillakaratne Dilshan (4), Sangakkara (51) and Mahela Jayawardene (20) while in search of quick runs.
Paceman Umar Gul provided Pakistan with a quick breakthrough as he dismissed Dilshan, caught in the slip off the fifth ball of the innings.
Sangakkara, who collected 516 runs from the six innings at an average of 86 in this series, added 75 for the second wicket with Paranavitana before he was caught off spinner Hafeez, causing a middle-order slump.
Jayaywardene also fell to Gul, trapped LBW.
Earlier, left-arm paceman Chanaka Welegadara took his maiden five-wicket haul, finishing 5-87 after Misbah-ul Haq missed his hundred by just 11 runs as Pakistan were dismissed for 340.
However, despite Welegedara’s effort, it was Misbah’s fighting knock of 89 which brought Pakistan closer before the 37-year-old right-handed batsman fell 10 minutes before lunch, top edging a sweep off spinner Suraj Randiv.
He added an invaluable 47 runs for the ninth wicket with Saeed Ajmal (12 not out) after Pakistan lost Abdul Rehman off the last ball of the first over of the day, caught in the slips off Welegedara.
It could have been worse for Pakistan if the Sri Lankan fielders had not dropped Misbah three times. Wicketkeeper Silva failed to grab a faint edge on a defensive push off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath when the batsman was on 57.
Two runs later Misbah’s uppish drive off Welegedara went between the hands of Angelo Mathews at mid-off and then, at 67, Misbah was let off by Paranavitana off the same bowler.
The Pakistan captain took full advantage of the lapses, hitting Welegedara for a straight six and a four to take his team’s total past the 300 mark.
In between Herath dismissed Gul for five, but Ajmal provided Misbah the much-needed assistance to bring their team closer to Sri Lanka’s total.