Sri Lanka gain the advantage

The Sri Lankan batsman took advantage of their bowlers’ excellent work in the morning and managed to end the third day at Colombo on 242 for two, the only batsmen who fell before the close of play being Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga.

Tharanga, before losing his wicket to Danish Kaneria having attempted to loft one down the ground, managed to score a solid 72- a vital knock considering the low scores that had preceded the second innings.

Tharanga started fluently and eagerly punched various drives through the covers until lunch. However, when his opening partner Sanath Jayasuriya fell for just 13, Tharanga, sensibly, slowed his rate of scoring and decreased his aggression to avoid a repeat of their first innings batting performance of which rendered just 185 runs.

After tea, whilst attempting to up the tempo, Tharanga finally got out, but his wicket brought Jayawardene, the captain, to the crease. Jayawardene and Sangakkara, two of the most experienced batsmen in the team, averted a collapse and they both pushed on. Jayawardene was the main aggressor of the pair, as he attacked from, practically, ball one.

Jayawardene cut and swept Kaneria, fresh from getting Tharanga out, and crafted an innings without parallel in the match thus far. The number four also played what must have been the shot of the day by lofting Kaneria, who was bowling around the wicket, to the long-on boundary elegantly. Jayawardene completed his half century soon after, and in a magnificent 72 balls. He had a slice of luck soon after when, on 54, he was dropped, but Jayawardene did not slow his scoring and, at the close of play, he finished on a well-earned 69 not out.

Sangakkara acted as a foil for Jayawardene, and battled his way to an unbeaten 77 by the close of play. The wicket-keeper had to fight hard against Kaneria early on, and, having played some typically left-handed nudges and pushes, he found it hard to obtain and maintain any rhythm to his innings. However, the number three managed to fight back late in the day having skewed some cross-bat shots over the field and hit two boundaries.

When the bails were removed Sri Lanka were firmly in the ascendancy, but this may not have been the case had their bowlers not made such excellent progress earlier in the day.

Pakistan began the day on 124 for four and a realistic chance of a lead with the visitors making a below-par score in their first innings. However, Farveez Maharoof soon began to lower those odds as Inzaman-ul-Haq, having attempted to cut one that bounced slightly more than expected, was caught behind by Kumar Sangakkara. Maharoof then further dented the chances of Pakistan overhauling the total set by bowling a flummoxed Abdul Razzaq with an absolute peach of a delivery.

The ball pitched in the corridor of uncertainty and then nipped back off of the seam, causing it to hit middle stump. Pakistan had just scored 11 runs for the loss of two wickets, but the Sri Lankan bowlers were not content to relax there- Muralitharan beat Shahid Afridi with a big off-break that hit the allrounder’s off-peg.

Umar Gul, who looked content to leave most of the deliveries bowled at him, soon found himself trudging back to the pavilion too having shouldered arms one time too many off of Muralitharan.

Malinga then yorked Mohammad Asif to take Pakistan to 172 for nine before Muralitharan managed to complete the destruction when Kamran Akmal swept into Tharanga’s arms. Pakistan ended up on 179 all out, six runs short of Sri Lanka’s first innings total.

So, with Sri Lanka firmly in the lead, Pakistan must clear up the rest of the Sri Lankan top-order before they can score any more significant runs in the morning otherwise one feels that the game may be all but sewn up with Muralitharan operating on a last-day pitch.

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 242/2
Kumar Sangakkara 77*, Upul Tharanga 72

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