Fast-rising Azhar Ali and veteran Younus Khan hit half-centuries in the middle session to put Pakistan on course for taking a big lead in the second Test against Sri Lanka.
The pair put on 117 for the third wicket to take Pakistan to 182 for three in their first innings by tea on the second day, needing just 57 runs to overhaul Sri Lanka’s 239 with seven wickets intact.
Azhar was on 58 at the interval and Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, unbeaten on one after Dhammika Prasad led Sri Lanka’s fightback by dismissing openers Taufiq Umar (27) and Mohammad Hafeez (33) in successive overs.
Azhar was the first to reach his half-century as he lifted Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, twice in as many overs to the extra-cover boundary before back paddling the same bowler for his sixth boundary overall to cross 50.
He now has 11 half-centuries in 15 Tests, without converting any of them into hundreds. Azhar also became the 49th Pakistani batsman to complete 1,000 Test runs when he reached 46.
Younus, when he reached 17, passed Salim Malik’s total of 5768 (103 Tests) to become the fourth highest Test run scorer for Pakistan behind Javed Miandad (8832 in 104 Tests), Inzamam-ul Haq (8829 in 119) and Mohammad Yousuf (7530 in 90).
Younis hit Tillakaratne Dilshan over deep midwicket boundary for a six to complete his fifty, but in the Sri Lankan captain’s next over he played onto his stumps. His 55 also included two boundaries.
Dhammika Prasad took two wickets off successive overs to lead the Sri Lankan fightback against Pakistan in the second Test at Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
The 28-year-old quick bowler removed openers Taufiq Umar (27) and Mohammad Hafeez (33) in the space of one run before Pakistan consolidated and went into lunch on 95 for two, still 144 runs behind Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 239 with eight wickets intact.
At the break Azhar Ali (17) and Younus Khan, the former captain, (13) were at the crease.
Pakistan started slowly after resuming at 42 without loss and benefited from two drop catches off successive deliveries from Suranga Lakmal, who was exceptional in the morning session.
It was the fifth over of the day when Lakmal got one to jump on Hafeez whose tentative push ballooned towards the covers where Tillakaratne Dilshan, the touring captain, failed to take the catch which fell behind him. Hafeez, on 25, went for a single.
On the next ball, Mahela Jayawardene dropped a regulation catch when Umar, on 24, edged.
But both openers failed to take advantage of the fielding lapses, when Umar edged Prasad to Kaushal Silva, the wicketkeeper, for his first dismissal in Tests while Hafeez was adjudged lbw in Prasad’s next over.
Umar, who made a career-best 236 in the drawn first Test in Abu Dhabi last week, hit three boundaries while Hafeez’s score had four to the ropes.
The third and final Test of the series will be played in Sharjah from November 3-7.