Jan 192014

Mohammad Talha appeals unsuccessfully for an lbw, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 4th day, January 19, 2014Mohammad Talha took two wickets as Pakistan kept a lid on Sri Lanka’s scoring © AFP

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Players/Officials: Dav Whatmore
Matches: Pakistan v Sri Lanka at Sharjah
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of United Arab Emirates
Teams: Pakistan | Sri Lanka

Pakistan didn’t go into the fourth day thinking of a win but, after their bowlers picked up late wickets, the contest remains open to the possibility of a twist on the final day of an otherwise slow Test. After losing the toss, Pakistan had seemingly accepted that forcing the win they need to draw the series was a distant possibility but their coach, Dav Whatmore, has not given up on getting a result.

Trailing 1-0 in the series and having played conservatively throughout the match, Pakistan find themselves 220 behind and needing five more second-innings wickets to set up a run chase. Sri Lanka, having done as much as possible to slow the game down in pursuit of a draw, crawled to 133 for 5 in 71 overs, as Mohammad Talha provided a spark for the hosts.

“The game is nicely poised going in to the last day,” Whatmore said. “It will be a very interesting fifth day. We just need five more wickets quickly so I think it will be a very important first hour and we take it from there as it goes along.

“We really expect to continue to create chances. You can’t win a Test match in a session so you need to continue to chip away at them and when the chances come, take them. It is still pretty much a flat wicket, except for the footmarks. Other than that, it just hasn’t broken up. If it pitches in an area where the footmarks are it has become a little bit tricky, but other than that it is just a very flat wicket which is playing a bit slower now.”

Pakistan lost their way in the first session, their remaining four wickets falling inside 15 overs to trail by 87 runs. Misbah-ul-Haq tried to whittle down the deficit in his familiar, steady fashion but there were questions as to whether Pakistan could have pushed harder for quick runs earlier in the game, to put pressure on Sri Lanka.

When asked, however, Whatmore was clear about his team’s desire for victory. “Every game we play we try to win, so we will go all out to get the best we can to achieve the result,” he said.

Saeed Ajmal’s struggles continued, although he found the right length to bowl in the evening session, picking up the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene. Ajmal has so far taken eight wickets at 50.50 in the series but Whatmore defended his star bowler. “If you have seen the first two Test matches you will know the wickets have not favoured the spin bowlers,” Whatmore said. “Ajmal is still a world-class performer. All world-class performers need a little bit of encouragement from the wicket and we haven’t had that.”

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Jan 172014
Talha, Junaid shine on dull day

For the second successive day, Pakistan’s bowlers struggled on a flat pitch. The team, however, could take heart from the success of their pacers, Mohammad Talha and Junaid Khan

Junaid Khan had Rangana Herath lbw for a first-ball duck, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 2nd day, January 17, 2014

Junaid Khan’s three-wicket haul was a bright spot for Pakistan on the second day © AFP

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Pakistan bowlers may have started the second day optimistic about their chances of ending Sri Lanka’s resistance but had little success as the visitors reached an imposing 428 for 9. While Pakistan’s bowlers contained the Sri Lanka batsmen well – conceding only 208 runs in the day – they could grab wickets only after the batting side had managed to build themselves into a position of strength. However, there were positives for Pakistan on the second day, specially the bowling of pacers Mohammad Talha and Junaid Khan.

Talha, bowling in only his second Test after a gap of nearly five years, provided the much-needed breakthroughs on both days and finished with figures of 3 for 99 in 32 overs. He is one of the fastest bowlers in Pakistan’s domestic cricket circuit, but was pushed back with the emergence of Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan. Talha remained on the periphery of national selection for long time and was left out for the squad for the first two Tests, but his performance showed an eagerness to make the best of an opportunity that came out of the blue.

On an unresponsive surface, Talha experimented a tad too much but, though he was short of length, his patience was rewarded with the vital scalps of Prasanna Jayawardene (35) and debutant Dilruwan Perera (95). Junaid, at the other end, charged in throughout the day and was tidy, although he did not get too much movement with the ball. Junaid was Pakistan’s most successful bowler, taking 3 for 81 at an economy rate of 2.53.

Saeed Ajmal, on the other hand, struggled again. He had picked up two wickets on the first day, but the Sri Lanka batsmen tackled him sensibly on the second day and scored more fluently off him. He was wicketless throughout the day and was left cursing the pitch that did not offer much help. He finished the innings with 2 for 120 in 55 overs. Prior to the Sharjah Test, Ajmal had called for more supportive pitches but as Pakistan’s strike bowler, he is expected to take wickets irrespective of conditions.

“This is what Test cricket is,” Junaid said, after an unproductive day. “We tried hard to extract the best out of the day, but it was a flat pitch. The way the batsmen have batted in last two days, there is nothing much for the bowler.”

Given the current match situation, the onus is on Pakistan’s batsmen to show composure in their innings and Junaid was optimistic about the team’s chances in the match: “The way pitch is acting, our batsmen can push hard tomorrow to make quick runs to turn the pressure back on Sri Lanka. We are hoping the pitch can do a bit later in the match.”

Jan 162014
Sri Lanka steady after losing Silva

Toss Sri Lanka chose to bat v Pakistan
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Dilruwan Perera made an impact on debut, taking 3 for 26, Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Twenty20, Pallekele, August 6, 2011

Dilruwan Perera (centre) was given a Test cap © AFP

Angelo Mathews chose to bat on a cloudless day in Sharjah as Sri Lanka attempt to close out the Test series by preserving or extending their 1-0 lead.

Pakistan have to make all the moves to square the series, and they began by making three changes to the XI that lost in Dubai. Bilawal Bhatti was sidelined by a hamstring injury but Mohammd Hafeez and Rahat Ali were left out on form. They were replaced by batsman Azhar Ali, left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman and fast bowler Mohammad Talha, who was playing his second Test.

Sri Lanka made only one change to their team. They gave the offspinner Dilruwan Perera a Test debut and benched fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep. They went into the match with two seamers and two spinners.

This is only the second Test in Sharjah since international cricket returned to the Emirate. Pakistan played Sri Lanka here in 2011 and that match ended in a draw.

Pakistan: 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Khurram Manzoor, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq 7 Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Mohammad Talha, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Abdur Rehman

Sri Lanka: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Kaushal Silva, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Suranga Lakmal

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