Thursday, 12 July 2012

Pak v Sri Lanka - Still In The Balance

Pakistan did on the fourth day of this final Test of the series, what Skipper Misbah-ul-haq has been asking of them since their revival start nearly two years ago, following the spot fixing scandal in England. They ground away at 90 runs a session, keeping their wickets in tact. In the process, they wrote of the deficit, posted a lead and gradually extended it. Once someone dropped anchor, they rallied around him.

Perfect, except for the last 40 minutes. After Asad Shafiq had clipped Rangara Herath through mid wicket after advancing down the wicket to him in the previous over and raising the hundredth run of his fifth wicket partnership with century maker Azhar Ali, Pakistan had placed themselves in a great position of strength. The next nine overs were a disaster as Azhar got an under edge to Fernando from a tired stroke and was caught behind. Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal all left in quick succession, lbw. Sami was duped by a bad call from Umpire Davis but the other two looked plumb.

Azhar Ali - two hundreds in the series
Earlier, Mohammad Hafeez made a half century adding 94 with Azhar and was out just before lunch. After the break, Younis Khan was just beginning to blossom when he was caught in close to one of those bat and pad catches which bowlers are always convinced of. Replays were inclusive. Younis had added 48 with Azhar. Misbah didn't stay long and then cam the century stand between Azhar and Shafiq. Azhar Ali was hand picked by Misbah to bat at three in his team, after starting in the middle order. He has always shown promise but it took 28 innings for his first century, a neat 100 against Sri Lanka in Dubai last October. By then he had ten half centuries. His second came against England in February, again in Dubai. The next two - in this series - have come straight after. Despite also making two ducks in the series, his success here gives him three centuries in his last seven Test innings. Its fair to say, the wait is over.

Herath has 4-64
Herath took four wickets and was the biggest threat all day but it was Fernando who constantly for the ball to make breakthroughs when partnerships were climbing. Sri Lanka did most things right, despite Prassana Jayawardene giving Younis a life.

A lead of 188 isn't enough but time is short. Adnan Akmal has bravely joined Shafiq at the crease with a broken finger but with eight wickets being down might define Pakistan's task more clearly. Had they still been four wickets down, deciding when to declare can be a problem of maths and gut. This way, Pakistan are unlikely to last long. If they can have 220 to defend and 80 overs to bowl, it might be enough. Of course, if they are out sooner, the target might be too small but they'll get a new ball at the end when things might be interesting. The pitch is playing lower and lower and Pakistan may rue not having Abdur Rehman who is one of the world's best under such circumstances.

You would favour Sri Lanka but Misbah can quote an cricket relality ... we've got 'em, they still have to.