x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sri Lanka escape with a draw thanks to brilliance of Sangakkara

The former captain strokes his eighth double century to prevent a certain defeat at the hands of Pakistan at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

Prasanna Jayawardena, left, and Kumar Sangakkara, right, shared a stand which saved the Test match.
Prasanna Jayawardena, left, and Kumar Sangakkara, right, shared a stand which saved the Test match.

Stumps report: Sri Lanka 197 & 483 / Pakistan 511/6 & 21/1

ABU DHABI // Neither Kumar Sangakkara nor Prasanna Jayawardene were there at the end, but the saving of this Test, finally in the final session, was their doing.

Sangakarra registered his eighth double century, sharing in a 201-run stand with Prasanna, who made 120, as Sri Lanka produced an act of escapology.

Any hope Pakistan had of salvaging a win lay in the first half hour after tea: they needed four swift wickets and then a pumped-up chase towards a smallish target. It wasn't to happen. Rangana Herath settled Sri Lankan nerves with a couple of mighty early biffs and that was pretty much that. 

It took Pakistan eight overs to strike, Jaywardene's excellent hundred, coming to an end as he nicked behind. In that time, Pakistan had already dropped yet another catch, Umar Gul the culprit at cover, Herath the beneficiary. It was the fourth catch dropped off Junaid Khan's bowling alone in this innings.  

Gul made up by running through the tail with the third new ball, so that Pakistan were left with a nominal target of 170 off a minimum of 21 overs. 

With no fielding or bowling restrictions, even the trueness of the surface wasn't going to make that possible. Mohammad Hafeez came out with Taufeeq Umar - the latter, confirmation that they weren't interested in a chase -  and though Taufeeq fell, Pakistan batted for some reason till 5pm before both sides decided to call it a day.

Tea report

Sri Lanka's continuing defiance all but saved the first Test at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, though a late, late twist was enough to put some doubt into that assessment. Kumar Sangakkara and Prasanna Jayawardene batted almost through the afternoon session, both men bringing up individual milestones as Sri Lanka ended on 434 for six, now 120 ahead. 

The pair were tested severely in a spell immediately after lunch in which both Aizaz Cheema and Umar Gul began to generate some reverse swing. Jayawardene was lucky to survive the second ball after the break from Cheema, replays suggesting Pakistan had good reason to appeal long and hard for a leg-before. At the other end Gul unsettled both with late movement but both batsmen pulled through and then prospered. 

In the first over after drinks, just as Jayawardene almost ran himself out, Sangakkara flicked Cheema down to very fine leg for a boundary and, with a little hop and an air-punch, celebrated a monumental 8th double hundred. It means now that only Brian Lara (9) and Don Bradman (12) have scored more. 

A few overs later Jayawardene brought up a fourth Test hundred with a wonderful, lofted straight drive, an effort spanning five hours. 

Pakistan were persistent until drinks but petered out thereafter, the mood of the Test fully reversed. The pair continued to dink the single and odd double as the tension receded, in the process going past the highest seventh-wicket partnership in Pakistan-Sri Lanka Tests. 

But having survived Pakistan's front-line attack, Sangakkara fell in the last over before tea, leg-before to Azhar Ali's part-time leg-spin. With 37 overs still left, it meant that the first half hour after tea is likely to be the day's defining one.

Lunch report

Another attritional session in what has been - the first day apart - an attritional Test saw Sri Lanka edge their way a little further to safety. They are a long way from it yet, but Kumar Sangakkara and Prasanna Jayawardene's unbroken 131-run stand remains the key to it, taking Sri Lanka's lead to 50, at 364 for 5.

Pakistan looked flat this morning, after an excellent day yesterday but they have been ground into it by Sangakkara who was moving closer to an eighth double hundred. The very first ball of the morning, deflected through the slips region for four by Jayawardene, set the mood of the session.

It was edgy stuff, at times nervous, as when Sangakkara nearly ran himself out in the morning's seventh over only for the throw to come at the wrong end. But mostly the pair batted so sensibly you wondered how Sri Lanka managed to get themselves into this position in the first place.

A straight drive from Jayawardene was a highlight and in the next over, off Saeed Ajmal, a single to square leg brought up a double landmark: his fourth Test fifty and the hundred partnership. By then they had already ensured that Pakistan would have to bat again in this Test.

Junaid Khan put in another luckless spell, but the ineffectiveness of Ajmal hurt Pakistan particularly. On a last day surface, in this situation, very little pressure was applied from his end. And every ball the pair kept out only sharpened the value of the six dropped catches yesterday.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae