Sangakkara and Asif take honours

Kumar Sangakkara continued to prove his immeasurable worth to the Sri Lankan side, as his 79 was one of the main efforts in a recovery from the early dismay of 61 for 3. On an enthralling day of tense and competitive cricket, Mohammad Asif tore through the Sri Lankan top order after his team elected to field.

Sangakkara’s partnership of 81 with Thilan Samaraweera crucially steadied the innings, but could not deny Pakistan the greater measure of the day’s play. Sri Lanka finished on 267/8, with Nuwan Kulasekara (11 not out) and Lasith Malinga (0 not out) set to resume on day two.

Asif’s early impact was undeniable. He first dismissed Tharanga (10) with an away-swinger, then bowled the central figure of Sanath Jayasuriya (14). In his final Test match, the opening batsman hit a four and a six in his typically pugnacious style, but was undone by a ball that nipped back. Captain Mahela Jayawardene was the third of Asif’s early victims. He edged a straight delivery to slip.

Samaraweera scored a patient 65 over the course of the day, facing 180 balls, playing in complete contrast to the positive Sangakkara. The wicketkeeper-batsman stroked 15 boundaries in a 98-ball stay at the crease, batting with all the confidence of a man in his best form. His wary approach to Asif showed intelligence, as he preferred to score with a distinct measure of freedom against the other seamers – namely Umur Gul and debutant Rao Iftikhar Anjum. Continuing effortlessly from his 185 in Colombo, Sangakkara eased three boundaries off Rao’s second over – a rough welcome to Test cricket.

Completely overshadowed for the most part, Samaraweera played his own innings of importance, albeit with significantly less flair. When he deemed to increase his tempo, however, he did so just as competently, and the Sri Lankan duo began to maximize further upon a weary Pakistani seam attack.

Never one to shy away from dramatic twists, Danish Kaneria was the man to bring the momentum to a halt. He first dismissed Sangakkara due a catch by silly point, then ended a promising innings of 22 from Tillekeratne Dilshan. Dilshan looked to be keen on taking on Pakistan, but perished to one of the most ordinary deliveries Kaneria bowled that day. Short and wide and begging to be hit for four, Dilshan only succeeded in supplying Kamran Akmal with an edge behind the stumps.

Farveez Maharoof was caught at short leg off a Kaneria googly, and suddenly the legspinner had turned things the way of the visitors, as Sri Lanka wobbled at 193/6. Samaraweera found a partner of sorts in Malinga Bandara, who was dropped on naught by Farhat in the gully, but batted on alongside his stodgy partner. Bandara’s methods were typical of a tail-end player, but effective to the tune of 43 runs.

The two looked to be once again willing the game Sri Lanka’s way, but the change of ball changed the complexion finally. The new ball saw Asif knock back the offstump of a driving Samaraweera, then he dismissed Bandara for his fifth wicket of the innings. It was the first such milestone for the young seamer, and also the final wicket to fall on an intriguing first day.

Sri Lanka 267-8
Kumar Sangakkara 79, Thilan Samaraweera 65, Malinga Bandara 43
Mohammad Asif 5-41, Danish Kaneria 3-44

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