x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Coach looks ahead to bat out of trouble 'in hard conditions'

Atapattu concedes tall task ahead as Pakistan top order is keen to take the steady approach to batting.

Chanaka Welegedara and the other bowlers laboured throughout the second day without much success. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
Chanaka Welegedara and the other bowlers laboured throughout the second day without much success. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

Despite a second day dominating Sri Lanka, Pakistan will not be rushed into tightening their grip on the opening Test at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

On the back of a sixth Test hundred from Taufeeq Umar and fifties from Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali, Pakistan built a 62-run lead by day's end, with nine wickets still in hand.

The going was not rapid; they added 232 runs to their overnight score and the middle session was particularly slow, producing only 59 runs.

The steady approach meant Pakistan did not get away entirely, and it is likely to continue, said Taufeeq, on the third morning. "We'll make a plan," he said.

"The first two hours we want to play normal cricket, maybe not accelerate too much. Then we'll take it from there."

Taufeeq's hundred, his second since his comeback last year, was a patient affair, an ode to openers past.

Accompanying him through two century stands were Hafeez and Azhar, who put together a 10th fifty in 14 Tests in much the pleasing manner of his previous nine. "We had to spend time and the key was the partnerships. We are in the driving seat right now through that approach," he said.

The only consolation that Sri Lanka could draw was that Pakistan did not disappear over the horizon. They bowled well, as Taufeeq conceded, between lunch and tea with Rangana Herath's left-arm spin orchestrating a strangle.

He was unlucky not to dismiss Azhar on seven, Mahela Jayawardene dropping him at slip soon after midday drinks.

Herath was coming towards the end of a mammoth, 23-over spell then, and it would have been fair reward for the day's only wicket-taker. Support around him from the pacemen was energetic but thin. Though the fastest, Nuwan Pradeep, affords a glimpse into a bright future, the trio of Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal is a callow attack.

"There are three guys basically very new to the game but each one has their strengths," said the batting coach Marvan Atapattu.

"Their roles have been given to them and we aren't diverting too much from the basics since they are new. It's hard conditions. Obviously we knew what we were against but, yes, all three weren't at their best."

Though the track is still good for batting, Taufeeq said it was beginning to break for spinners and will do more. If Pakistan can build a large lead, Sri Lanka face the prospect of batting out a lot of time.

"We have to [bat out of trouble]," Atapattu said.

"It is good that we only gave about 230 runs for the whole day but a bit disappointing that we got only one wicket. Having said that, we really have to do well whenever we go in to bat."

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