Younis Khan and captain Misbah-ul-Haq hit fighting half centuries to lead Pakistan to 132-3 in the second innings and narrow Sri Lanka’s lead to 91 on the third day of the second test on Friday.
Younis was on 62 off 142 balls with four boundaries while Misbah was on 53 off 119 balls, hitting five fours and a six as they revived their side from a perilous 19-3.
Earlier, Sri Lanka was bowled out for 388 and stretched the lead to 223 runs despite Mahela Jayawardene receiving little support from the lower order.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath made the first impact in Pakistan’s second innings by having Ahmed Shehzad caught behind for 9 in the last over before lunch.
Fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep came hard after the break against the susceptible Pakistan top order with the new ball. Mohammad Hafeez, on 1, poked at a full-length delivery and gave a healthy edge, while Khurram Manzoor, on 6, was squared up off a good length delivery and gave Prasanna Jayawardene his third catch of the innings as Pakistan lost three wickets inside eight overs.
Pakistan badly needed Khan and Misbah to pull off a rescue attempt. And the pair didn’t disappoint. Both continued their rich form after scoring centuries in the drawn first test last week and stood firm against the seamers and Herath by putting on 113 runs.
“When the team is in need, it’s always good that senior guys perform,” Khan said. “Whenever Misbah plays with me we just take singles and we try to cash the bad balls.”
Khan raised his 28th test 50 off 109 balls with three fours while Misbah got to his 23rd test half century just before the close off 108 balls with five fours and a six off Herath.
Sri Lanka came close to separating the pair in the last over before tea but Misbah survived a run out when Suranga Lakmal couldn’t hit the stumps while picking up the ball cleanly off his follow through.
“The first target is (to erase) that lead,” Khan said. “If we play one good session and then cash in on the remaining two sessions you never know, anything can happen. Because the wicket is still very good and you never know how it behaves on the last day.”
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford, who will quit after the third test in Sharjah, hoped to break the stand early on the fourth morning when his seamers will have help from any moisture.
“They are class players and they showed that in the last test,” Ford said of Khan and Misbah. “If we can get two quick ones (wickets) it’s a different game. Tomorrow morning’s first session is going to be a very, very big first session for both teams.”
Resuming from 318-4 overnight, Sri Lanka’s slump began in the second over of the day with captain Angelo Mathews edging Rahat Ali to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed without adding to his overnight score of 42. Mathews was dropped on 6 by Sarfraz on Thursday and went on to add 93 runs with Jayawardene for the fifth wicket.
Jayawardene elegantly placed Ali to the point boundary to reach 118 and passed Steve Waugh for eighth on the list of all-time leading test run-scorers.
Prasanna Jayawardene was undone for 9 by Junaid Khan’s sharp delivery and was clean bowled, then Herath tried to go for a quick single and was run out for 6 at 348-7.
Khan failed in an attempt to win an lbw decision through a TV referral against Jayawardene after the batsman added three to his overnight 106, and in the same over Shaminda Eranga cut the left-arm seamer to the third man boundary to extend the lead to 200. Eranga made 14.
Ajmal, who bowled 49 wicketless overs in the second innings of the drawn first test last week, had to wait a further 28 overs before he ended Jayawardene’s marathon knock of 7 1/2 hours that featured 15 fours and came off 278 balls.
The last-wicket pair of Lakmal and Pradeep frustrated Pakistan for nearly half an hour before Ajmal finally folded the innings by having Pradeep leg before wicket to finish with 2-56.
Pacemen Junaid Khan took 3-102 and Ali claimed 2-131.