Sangakkara special inspires SL

Sri Lanka consolidated a strong position against Pakistan, and Kumar Sangakkara’s innings of 185 was the centrepiece. Sangakkara struck 22 boundaries and batted for 326 balls, as the Sri Lankans charged to 448/5 before declaring and taking two late Pakistani wickets.

The wicketkeeper-batsman began the day on 77 with his partner and captain Jayawardene on 69. The two added 43 runs to the overnight total of 242/2, then Jayawardene was out for 82 to end a 158-run partnership. His dismissal raised eyebrows if only for its monotony, as he fell to an accostumed hook shot, this time off Mohammad Asif.

There was no respite for the Pakistani bowlers, however, and Sangakkara continued to structure his innings beautifully. It featured everything ranging from glorious cover drives to confident pull shots.

Having taken 209 balls to get to a century, Sangakkara fairly raced to the mark of 150 off a further 71 balls. He dominated a partnership of 144 with Thilan Samaraweera, who himself was not shy in runscoring. Samaraweera ultimately chimed in with 64 runs, handling the spinners with particular distinction.

He faced 119 balls and hit 8 fours, then followed Sangakkara back to the pavilion within an over. Both batsmen searched to increase the scoring rate, and Sangakkara was dismissed via a misplayed sweep shot off Shoaib Malik, then Samaraweera was taken at cover attempting to loft Shahid Afridi. The dismissals were prelude to a declaration, which came 10 runs later.

For the large part the Pakistani bowlers toiled without success throughout their share of the fourth day’s play. Mohammaed Asif (2/71) was the only bowler to take more than a solitary wicket, though Danish Kaneria’s figures of 36-5-138-1 did not reflect the effort and heart with which he bowled. The other bowlers were not quite as impressive, and the struggle meant that Pakistan would have to chase 458 runs for victory with a day and a half left in the match.

The openers fought past the Sri Lankan opening bowlers, but Muttiah Muralitharan showed why he is the champion offspinner in world cricket, snaring two wickets whilst feeding off notable turn and bounce. Imran Farhat (34) showed a disciplined game and mixed in some pleasant offside strokes against the seamers. Spin was to be his undoing though, and he lunged forward to Muralitharan to give Jayawardene his 100th Test catch, at slip. Muralitharan then bowled Younis Khan (8) as he gave himself room to cut.

It was the last wicket to fall on a day when only five were dismissed, but certainly not with ease. Shoaib Malik was the most fortunate man present, as he was dropped by batting hero Sangakkara on 14, then edged a ball just short, and survived two very ominous leg-before-wicket appeals. He tucked his bat away at 30 not out, with his partner Faisal Iqbal on 9. The task of hand is now quite formidable, and will require Pakistan to score 369 if they are to search for victory. Against them will be the knowledge of just 8 wickets in hand and the challenge of negotiating Muralitharan in conditions that he will relish to no end.

Sri Lanka 185
Tillakaratne Dilshan 69, Farveez Maharoof 46
Mohammad Asif 4/41, Danish Kaneria 3/44

Pakistan 176
Imran Farhat 69, Inzamam ul-Haq 31
Lasith Malinga 3/30, Farveez Maharoof 4/52

Sri Lanka 448/5
Kumar Sangakkara 185, Mahela Jayawardene 82, Upul Tharanga 72
Mohammad Asif 2/71

Pakistan 89/2
Imran Farhat 34, Shoaib Malik 30*
Muttiah Muralitharan 2/20

Pakistan require 369 runs with 8 wickets in hand.

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