Azhar Ali hit a brilliant hundred as Pakistan pulled off a thrilling victory in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka in Sharjah yesterday to level the series at 1-1.
Set a daunting 302 to win in a possible 59 overs, Pakistan owed their successful chase to Ali’s fifth Test century (103), as he and Misbah-ul-Haq shared 109-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Misbah, who finished with 68 not out, hit the winning single with nine balls to spare in fading light at the Sharjah International Cricket Stadium in the United Arab Emirates.
Ali, who was ironically dropped for the first two Tests, hit paceman Suranga Lakmal for a boundary, then twice took two to reach his 100 off 133 balls.
He hit six boundaries before falling, caught behind with just seven still needed to win.
Pakistan’s chances seemed to have faded away at 107-3 at tea, as they needed 195 in the last 35 overs.
However, Ali upped the tempo during a rapid 89-run partnership in 14.5 overs with Sarfraz Ahmed (48) that left Sri Lanka on the defensive.
Even when Sarfraz was out — caught behind off paceman Shaminda Eranga — Pakistan needed 116. Sarfraz hit four boundaries and a six off 46 balls.
However, Misbah supported Ali as Pakistan achieved their second-best chase in all Test cricket, behind the 314 they chased against Australia in Karachi in 1994.
Sri Lanka had won the second Test in Dubai by nine wickets, while the first Test ended in a draw in Abu Dhabi.
Pakistan lost Ahmed Shehzad (21), Khurram Manzoor (21) and Younis Khan (29) as they were derailed in their chase.
Needing to score at a rate of more than five an over to win, Pakistan were given a rapid 35-run start by the sixth over, but paceman Suranga Lakmal (3-79) halted that progress by dismissing openers Shehzad and Manzoor within 13 runs.
Younis Khan tried to increase the pace before being caught off Angelo Mathews two overs before tea, but the scenario changed in the last session.
With the series tied, Pakistan also remained unbeaten in five series in the United Arab Emirates, which has become their adopted home due to security fears in their native country.
The fears were sparked in the wake of attacks on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009, forcing Pakistan to play at neutral venues.
They have drawn series with South Africa twice, in 2010 and last year, and defeated Sri Lanka and England in 2011 and 2012 respectively.