Chasing 136 at Abu Dhabi, Pakistan lost what seemed to be an un-losable Test. Having been 52 for 5 in the pursuit of 317, they have now left themselves a chance of winning what appeared to be an unwinnable one. In a series that has been enlivened by a flood of dramatic twists, the final session of day four saw another one: an unbroken partnership of 146 between Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed.
Sri Lanka still have five wickets to get. Pakistan 119 runs to square the series. If the visitors break through, it will be the first time since 2010 that Pakistan have been defeated in the UAE. If Pakistan get across the line, it would be their third 300-plus chase against Sri Lanka in four years.
Azhar Ali and Shan Masood batted for 20.2 overs together. They toiled, they laboured, they scratched around, scoring at less than 2 runs an over. But eventually, their passive resistance ended, and Sri Lanka scythed through the middle order. Collapses had defined day three. They become the major feature of the fourth day as well.
Having lost four wickets for 16 runs towards the end of the twilight session, Pakistan were five wickets down, requiring an improbable 255 to win. With the spinners wheeling themselves into a rhythm, Sri Lanka left the field smelling a completely unexpected series sweep. Dilruwan Perera was the man leading the victory push. He came into the attack late but took three quickfire wickets, removing Haris Sohail, Masood and Babar Azam within the space of 10 deliveries. Nuwan Pradeep had earlier dismissed Azhar – his first breakthrough of the match. Captain Dinesh Chandimal left the field content, having manoeuvred his bowlers and fielders successfully in that session, as well as generally through this match.
Dilruwan’s victims were all caught close to the wicket. Sohail and Masood – both left-handers with the ball was spinning away – followed the turning ball, and sent thin edges through to the wicketkeeper. Not only has Niroshan Dickwella caught well in this match, he has also been a constant irritant to the opposition from behind the wicket, even taking to sledging the batsmen in Urdu, at one stage. The third wicket – that of Babar for a two-ball duck- went low, to Kaushal Silva at leg slip.
The late flurry of wickets brought into question the tactics used by Masood and Azhar earlier in the session. Perhaps they attempted to stonewall because Sri Lanka’s bowlers had not had much rest between innings, and they felt they could wear them out.—Agencies