COLOMBO: Kaushal Silva’s 80 and 77 from Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews helped Sri Lanka finish the second day of the second Test with a lead of 166 runs. The hosts will, however, be disappointed with a few of their dismissals on the day, which held them back from a more dominating performance. For Pakistan, Yasir Shah was the best bowler, picking up 5 for 95 – his second, successive Test five-for – and crossing a few personal milestones on the way.
Mathews was the common thread between two partnerships that stabilised Sri Lanka after wobbles had threatened to erode the advantage of a lead. In the first session, Mathews and Silva came together after Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne had been dismissed within a short span of time. The pair added 72 for the fourth wicket, seeing the side through to a crucial period of play before lunch, and then capitalising on the loose deliveries on offer from a Pakistan attack that had to shoulder the extra burden of Wahab Riaz’s absence.
It was Mathews’ partnership with Dhammika Prasad, however, that was far more crucial for Sri Lanka. The lead had been gained but the advantage seemed to be slipping away when Silva, Dinesh Chandimal and Kithuruwan Vithanage were dismissed for an addition of 11 runs to the score. Mathews, himself, received a few reprieves. He came close to being run-out for 25 in the 69th over when a throw from an off-balance Yasir Shah bought him time. He was dropped on 32 when Yasir Shah couldn’t hold on to a top-edge at mid-on, and then poor communication resulted in Silva’s run-out.
He then had to watch as Dinesh Chandimal and Kithuruwan Vithanage played poor shots to fall quickly before Prasad held steady at the crease after surviving an lbw appeal off his first ball. The onus of scoring rested largely on Mathews, but Prasad didn’t hold back on poor deliveries, even stepping out to Babar to score a four over mid-off. By the time the partnership was broken Prasad had contributed 35 runs to Mathews’ 36. That partnership helped Sri Lanka’s lead swell from 64 to 137.
Mathews, who came into bat a few overs before lunch, started off with a four off Yasir, using his wrists to play against the turn and he steadily accumulated runs, seeing Sri Lanka through a tricky period before lunch. He favoured the legspinner’s bowling, taking four of his eight boundaries off Yasir, including a powerful reverse-sweep, where he dragged the ball from outside leg stump and played it past point. He even came down the track to Junaid Khan, drilling it straight down the ground for a four.
Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, both batsmen were dismissed in successive overs. Prasad was trapped plumb in front by Mohammad Hafeez, while Mathews became Yasir’s 50th Test wicket. The Sri Lanka captain was hit on the pads by a quicker delivery that stayed straight and kept low. He reviewed the on-field umpire’s call, but replays showed there was no inside edge. That wicket helped Yasir become the fastest Pakistan bowler to 50 Test wickets. Soon after, he got rid of Tharindu Kaushal to overtake James Anderson and Stuart Broad as the top Test wicket-taker in 2015 with 24 wickets.
The five-for was also a just reward for long spells of bowling, a burden that all Pakistan bowlers had to bear after Wahab was ruled out of the Test due to a knuckle fracture he suffered on the first day. Yasir bowled 34 overs in the day, Babar bowled 25 and Junaid Khan bowled 17.2 overs. Mohammad Hafeez who did not bowl during Sri Lanka’s session on the first day, pitched in with ten overs and took Prasad’s wicket.
Resuming from an overnight score of 70 for 1, Sri Lanka were cautious in the first session as Kumar Sangakkara and Silva strove to negate any early-morning advantage the Pakistan bowlers might have. There was little on the track, however, and the first wicket of the day came against the run of play, after the pair had settled down.
At the start of the 44th over, Sangakkara made it back to the striker’s end just in time to avoid being run out after a misunderstanding with Silva. When Babar tossed the ball up, Sangakkara stepped out and his lofted shot was held by Asad Shafiq at long-on, who completed an overhead catch.
Babar came close to another breakthrough, when Thirimanne turned the ball to Azhar Ali at short-leg. The fielder couldn’t hold on to the catch, but the drop did not prove too costly for Pakistan, as Thirimanne fell to a similar shot off Yasir Shah only three overs later.
Silva’s confidence grew as the session progressed. He brought up his half-century with a square-drive off Junaid Khan and he pushed Sri Lanka into the lead with another four off Babar, this time a pull through midwicket. He was finally dismissed for 80, stranded mid-pitch after a poor call while batting with Mathews.