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Ton-up Abdullah Shafique drives Pakistan’s record chase vs Sri Lanka at Galle

CricketTon-up Abdullah Shafique drives Pakistan's record chase vs Sri Lanka at Galle

Galle: Abdullah Shafique’s spirited ton put Pakistan on top but Babar Azam’s wicket in the final hour has given Sri Lanka a glimmer of hope on day four of the first Test.

Although Sri Lanka did well to resist in the final session on day three, they could not continue the same on the fourth day. The hosts were able to add just eight runs to their overnight total, with Naseem Shah rattling the off stump of No.11 Prabath Jayasuriya. Unfortunately, that meant that Dinesh Chandimal was left stranded in the 90s. He was the highest scorer in the second innings, finishing on 94* with five fours and two sixes. Sri Lanka set Pakistan a target of 342, a total no side has successfully chased at Galle.

Abdullah Shafique survived a close lbw review in the fourth over despite the ball projection hitting the leg-stump when the ball-tracker showed it was an umpire’s call. His opening partner Imam-ul-Haq also survived an lbw review in the next over. With luck on their side, the openers soon completed a half-century stand, going to lunch at 68/0. Shafique was solid since the beginning, batting with intent and took the attack to the bowlers. Even after Imam got out early in the second session, Shafique continued in the same vein. A brief stand with Azhar Ali (6) followed but Shafique found the perfect partner in Babar Azam.

Babar got off the mark with crunching on-drive, clubbed Jayasuriya for a maximum two overs later and continued to rotate the strike effectively. By tea, the partnership was approaching fifty with 147/2 on board. The duo rapidly scaled milestones, Babar Azam going past 3000 Test runs and eventually getting his 22nd Test half-century. Shafique too followed, completing his second Test hundred with the second-wicket stand crossing 100. The crucial stand was eventually broken when Jayasuriya bowled Babar on 55.

With 120 runs needed to win on the final day with seven wickets in hand, the match hangs in balance. Pakistan would have been happier with Babar at the crease, but his wicket towards the end of the day helped Sri Lanka get back in the game. Nevertheless with Shafique still going strong on 112* and Mohammad Rizwan settled on 7* off 12, Pakistan have a good chance to press home their advantage.

The first hour tomorrow will be crucial as the hosts will hunt for early wickets. Hopes will rest on Prabath Jayasuriya, who has already taken three five-wicket hauls in the first three Test innings of his career. Now on 2/89, the left-armer will be raring to prove himself. With the pitch easing up and no real turn on offer, the bowlers’ job is not going to be an easy one. However, if they can get a couple of early wickets and expose Pakistan’s inexperienced lower-middle order, we could have a riveting finish on our hands.

Courtesy: ICC

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