Shafique, Sarfaraz keep Pakistan hopes alive


DUBAI, Oct 10 (TNS):  Sarfarz Ahmed (86) and Asad Shafiq (57) combined to lead the fightback after Pakistan, seeking a series-leveling win, were pushed to the back foot by Dilruwan Perera in their chase of 317 in the topsy-turvy second Test in Dubai on Monday.

Both the batsmen scored gritty fifties and shared the biggest partnership of the series so far as Pakistan reached 198-5 at the stumps with one day of play left. They need another 119 runs for a series-levelling victory Both Shafiq and Sarfraz played resolutely not only to delay the seemingly an inevitable defeat but also to rekindle the hopes of an improbable come-from-behind victory.

Pakistan top-order once again failed to exorcise the demons in the pitch before Sarfraz and Shafiq took control of the situation to steady the ship.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s homework for Rangana Herath went in vain as Sri Lanka unleashed a secret weapon in form of Dilruwan Perera, who spelled a doom with a magical spell, as the hosts lost three wickets with in a span of three runs that dented their hopes of a series–leveling win.

After being set a target of 317, Pakistan were struggling, when Perera struck the right chords and their middle-order was found dancing to the tune of the off- spinner. He got rid of Shan Masood (21), Harris Sohail (10) and Babar Azam (0) with in a space of six deliveries.

Both Masood and Sohail were caught by wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella while Azam holed out to Silva as Pakistan were reduced from 49-2 to 52-5. It was Azam’s fifth duck in six matches this year.

Masood seemed to have retreated in a kind of shell as he laboured to 21 runs off 101 balls that included only one boundary. He, along with Azhar Ali, added 35 runs for the second wicket in 23 overs.

Both of them batted at a snail’s pace which put Pakistan under pressure. Azhar was also caught by Silva off the bowling of Nuwan Pradeep.

Earlier, Sami Aslam failed to capitalise on a half-chance when he was caught by Kusal Mendis in slips off a no-ball off Lajiru Gamage.

However, after two deliveries, Gamage again pitched the ball just outside the off stumps, forcing Aslam to play on it.

The batsman did make the same mistake again as he opened the face of the bat and the ball took a thick edge to land in the safe hands of Mendis again.

Earlier, Lanka squandered a chance to pile up more runs in their second innings after taking a big first innings lead and gave Pakistan a faint hope of fancying their chances of a victory. After losing five wickets on day three for a mere 34 runs, Lanka could manage to add just 62 runs to their overnight score and lost the remaining five wickets in the first hour of the play only.

Wahab Riaz, who led Pakistan’s fightback on day three, was the wrecker-in chief as he finished with a figure of 4-41. Lanka began the day on positive note as Mendis and Dickwell (21) added 25 runs for the sixth wicket, taking the score to 59 before Raiz struck again to break the partnership and start the skid.

Next man in, Dilruwan could not survive the assault as he was trapped by Yasir Shah in front of wicket for a nought to leave Lanka in tatters despite a cushion of 220-run first innings lead.

Mendis waged a brief battle with Rangna Herath (17) before Haris Sohail was brought into the attack. Sohail bowled a magical spell as he took three wickets in one over, conceding just one run to wind up Lanka’s second innings.

He got Herath caught by Azam off the first ball, two ball later, he got rid of Mendis, who was standing rock-solid at one end. Nuwan Fernando (0) failed to got off the mark and was trapped by Sohail as Pakistan were set a target of 317.