Channel NewsAsia

Cricket: Pakistan take charge of first Sri Lanka Test

Younis Khan smashed 177 during a valiant fightback with the lower order batsmen as Pakistan gained the upper hand in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Thursday (Aug 7)

GALLE: Younis Khan smashed 177 during a valiant fightback with the lower order batsmen as Pakistan gained the upper hand in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Thursday (Aug 7).

Khan, who came in to bat at 19-2 on the first morning, anchored the innings admirably to enable the tourists to pile up 451 all out by tea on the second day. Sri Lanka replied with 99-1 by close, comfortably tackling both pace and spin, but the batsmen will remain wary of the turn and bounce that will increasingly come into play over the next three days.

Left-arm seamer Junaid Khan trapped Upul Tharanga leg-before for 19 in the fifth over, but Kaushal Silva and Kumar Sangakkara settled in to put on 75 for the second wicket. Silva was unbeaten on 38 and Sangakkara was on 36 with Sri Lanka still 352 runs behind the tourists.

"This game is still wide open even though there is some turn and bounce in this wicket," said Younis Khan. "The third day's play tomorrow will be very crucial. If we can get some early wickets, then we can put them under pressure. I thought we were unlucky not to get more than one wicket today. But Sri Lanka too have some very good batsmen who are capable of putting up a big score. A lot will depend on how our spinners, Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, bowl in the morning."

The 36-year-old Younis, who is playing his 90th Test, batted for eight hours and 16 minutes, hitting 15 boundaries and a six in his 24th Test century.

'EASY RUNS'

Pakistan, who resumed at their overnight score of 261-4, went to lunch on 347-5 with Asad Shafiq making 75 during a fifth-wicket stand of 137 with Khan. The visitors added 32 runs in the first hour when left-arm spinner Rangana Herath broke through for Sri Lanka by trapping Shafiq leg-before. The batsman's appeal to the TV umpire went in vain.

Sri Lanka came close to removing Khan when he was on 156, but seamer Shaminda Eranga spilled a sharp return catch as the batsman failed to keep a drive along the ground.

Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera, who had gone without a wicket for four sessions, struck five times in the post-lunch period to hasten the end of Pakistan's innings. Perera ended Khan's vigil soon after lunch by beating the well-set batsman in the air, resulting in an easy catch at short mid-wicket, a soft dismissal that came against the run of play.

Pakistan's wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed made 55 and shared a sixth-wicket stand of 66 with Khan when he too lobbed an easy catch to mid-on to give Perera his second wicket. The off-spinner had Saeed Ajmal and Junaid caught at leg-slip by Mahela Jayawardene, taking the retiring former Sri Lankan captain's tally to 202 Test catches. Only India's Rahul Dravid has taken more catches (210) by a fielder other than a wicket-keeper.

Tailender Rehman, essentially a left-arm spinner, showed his batting skills by hammering six fours and a six while making 50, his second Test half-century. Rehman's heroics enabled Pakistan to add 92 for the last four wickets after Khan's dismissal.

"This is a different Galle pitch," said Herath. "There may be some turn and bounce, but it is also easier to score runs. "If we put up a huge total, it could be an interesting game."