x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'We can put pressure on Pakistan,' says Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara scores a fighting century to keep first Test alive, and the middle-order batsman now hopes to erase 16-run deficit and set target of 100 to 150 in Abu Dhabi.

Kumar Sangakkara, right, played a vintage knock at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Kumar Sangakkara, right, played a vintage knock at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Friday.

ABU DHABI // Kumar Sangakkara likes batting against Pakistan. Six of his 26 Test hundreds have come against them and Friday's unbeaten 161 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium formed the first thread of true defiance in a Test in which his side have been dominated.

Sangakkara stood unbowed through a windy, sandy day against a threatening Pakistan attack let down by their fielders, as Sri Lanka closed 16 runs short of making Pakistan bat again.

At 298 for five with the last recognised batting pair at the crease though, the Test is still Pakistan's to lose.

"I am not sure what it is but ever since I scored a double when I played against them in the Asian Test championship [in 2002], since then I'm not sure what the reason is, but maybe I read their bowlers better," Sangakkara said.

"It would've been nice if I got it in the first innings but it was a tough fight and one of my better hundreds."

There was some luck. He was almost out on 50, only for replays to show Younis Khan's attempted catch at slip may have touched the grass first.

Another escape came on 56, Younis again putting down a tough chance.

But, otherwise, it was pure Sangakkara, occasional cover drives on one knee, many cuts through point and mostly solid defence.

It had to be, because Pakistan's bowlers - unlike their fielders, who dropped six chances through the day - brought persistent threat, none more so than Junaid Khan, who saw two chances missed off his bowling.

"They bowled exceptionally well," Sangakkara said.

"They used the new ball well. The spinners came on and they continued to keep the pressure on.

"It's a new attack, they've got two seniors in [Saeed] Ajmal and [Umar] Gul but it's heartening to see two young bowlers come in and Junaid used his angles and pace variations well."

Gul said the conditions were difficult still for fast bowlers, but the team were confident they could win their first Test against Sri Lanka since 2006 on Saturday.

"It's a slow wicket and the ball is stopping, so there are only chances when you have a new ball," said Gul.

"Spinners have a good chance and its not easy to score against them. We dropped a few catches. We had a few bad sessions but we are still very confident.

"This is the last batting pair so we will try to get them early."

Talk by the end of a well-attended day had switched to how much Pakistan might have to chase now to win, a clear indication of how well Sri Lanka have fought.

Cautiously, Sangakkara said a target of 100-150 would put the pressure on Pakistan.

He said: "There is still a lot of work left and, if we can get the first session through, we can put some pressure on Pakistan."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae