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December 21, 2019

Shaheen Afridi sizzles as Pakistan stay alive in see-saw Test


December 21, 2019

KARACHI: On a day of fluctuating fortunes, Pakistan kept their hopes alive of recording their first win in the ICC World Test Championship here at the National Stadium on Friday.

The pace duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi, who grabbed his first five-wicket haul in Tests, and Mohammad Abbas shared nine wickets between them to make sure Sri Lanka don’t walk away with a big lead.

Then in the final hour of an engrossing second day of the final Test, Pakistan’s openers – Abid Ali and Shan Masood — showed some spine as they reduced Sri Lanka’s first innings lead of 80 to 23 with an unbeaten 57-run stand.

With three more days to go, the series decider is now evenly poised and much will depend on how Pakistan’s top order will fare on Saturday when hopefully a larger crowd will come and witness what promises to be another absorbing day of Test cricket.

Pakistan have certainly wrestled the momentum from Sri Lanka thanks to the much-needed opening partnership between Abid and Shan in fading light. The way they counterattacked should give the hosts a lot of confidence on the crucial third day when the local fans will expect them to give Sri Lanka a sizeable total to chase on what is not an easy wicket to bat on.

The task for the openers should be to carry on from where they left on Friday evening and bat positively. A 100-plus opening stand will put the Sri Lankans on the back foot and will lift some pressure off the shoulders of Pakistan’s under-fire captain Azhar Ali, who’ll come to bat at number three.

But it’s easier said than done. The tourists once again proved on Friday they mean business and they won’t go down without a fight.

Despite the fact that Pakistan’s pacers reduced them to 80-5 after cleaning up the two overnight batters – Angelo Mathews and Lasith Embuldeniya cheaply, the Sri Lankans managed to answer Pakistan’s below-par 191 with a well-deserved 271. There were valuable partnerships of 67, 37, 51 and 36 for the visitors and it was their top scorer Dinesh Cahndimal, who played the lead role in most of those stands. The Sri Lankans added 181 to their total after losing half their side.

In stark contrast, the Pakistanis lost their last six first innings wickets for just 24. The biggest cause for concern for the Pakistanis going into the business end of the Test is the indifferent form of their seasoned leg-spinner Yasir Shah. Once hailed as Pakistan’s most lethal bowler in red-ball cricket, Yasir has lost his sting. On Friday, he appeared to be a shadow of himself as he failed to get much turn or the right length. Pakistan will need a much better showing from him if they are to win this crucial Test.

Agencies add: Shaheen took a maiden five-wicket haul to lead Pakistan’s fightback after Sri Lanka gained a crucial lead. Shaheen, 19, took 5-77 and was ably supported by new-ball partner Abbas (4-55) to keep Sri Lanka down to 271.

By the close of second day’s play Pakistan had wiped off 57 of the deficit for no loss but still trail by 23 runs with all 10 wickets in hand and three days to play.

Opener Abid Ali — who became the first batsman ever to hit a debut hundred in both Test and one-day international in the first match in Rawalpindi — was unbeaten on 32 and Shan Masood on 21, not out.

The series is part of the ongoing World Test championship with nine teams competing. The top two teams will play the final in June 2021.

Sri Lanka fought through Dinesh Chandimal who made 74 and Dilruwan Perera who made a fighting 48 batting at number nine.

With his team wobbling at 80-5 in the morning, Chandimal built partnerships of 67 with Dhananjaya de Silva (32) for the sixth wicket, 37 for the seventh wicket with Niroshan Dickwella (21) and then another 51 with Perera for the eighth.

Chandimal was finally dismissed by part-time spinner Haris Sohail, caught at backward point after he mistimed a cut. He hit ten boundaries in his 143-ball knock.

The extended two-and-a-half hour first session belonged to Pakistan who took three early wickets after Sri Lanka resumed at 64-3.

It were Abbas and Shaheen who rattled the Sri Lankan batting. Abbas had Embuldeniya caught in the slip for 13 before left-armer Shaheen dismissed Angelo Mathews, also for 13.

De Silva, who scored a century in the first Test, batted with grit to frustrate Pakistan and take Sri Lanka to 170-6 at lunch. Shaheen broke the stand by luring De Silva into hooking straight into the hands of deep square-leg fielder Abbas, who held a running catch.

Perera also added an invaluable 36 for the ninth wicket with Vishwa Fernando to increase Sri Lanka’s lead before Shaheen took the last two wickets in three balls. Shaheen’s previous best of 4-64 came in the Centurion Test against South Africa earlier this year. Perera hit six boundaries and a six in his 84-ball stay.

Pakistan won toss

Pakistan 1st Innings 191 all out (Asad Shafiq 63; L Kumara 4-49, L Embuldeniya 4-71)

Sri Lanka 1st Innings

O Fernando c Rizwan b Shaheen 4

*D Karunaratne b Abbas 25

K Mendis c Haris b Abbas 13

A Mathews c Rizwan b Shaheen 13

L Embuldeniya c Asad b Abbas 13

D Chandimal c Shan b Haris 74

D de Silva c Abbas b Shaheen 32

†N Dickwella b Abbas 21

D Perera lbw b Shaheen 48

V Fernando not out 5

L Kumara b Shaheen 0

Extras (b 4, lb 10, nb 3, w 6) 23

Total (all out; 85.5 overs) 271

Fall: 1-28, 2-39, 3-61, 4-78, 5-80, 6-147, 7-184, 8-235, 9-271, 10-271

Bowling: Shaheen 26.5-5-77-5 (1 nb); Abbas 27-9-55-4 (1 w); Naseem 16-1-71-0 (2 nb, 5 w); Yasir 13-0-43-0; Haris 3-0-11-1

Pakistan 2nd Innings

Shan Masood not out 21

Abid Ali not out 32

Extras (lb 4) 4

Total (0 wicket; 14 overs) 57

Still to bat: *Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, †Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi

Bowling: Fernando 5-1-14-0; Kumara 3-0-20-0; Embuldeniya 5-0-17-0; Perera 1-0-2-0

Umpires: Joel Wilson (West Indies) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia). TV umpire: Gregory Brathwaite (West Indies). Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)