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Disciplined Sri Lanka leave Pakistan in trouble

Tea Pakistan 115 for 4 (Azhar 28*, Sohail 6*) trail Sri Lanka 482 by 367 runs

Sri Lanka took four large strides towards claiming a tight grip on the Dubai Test, removing Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam in the first session of day three. The dismissals were part Sri Lankan pressure and part Pakistani brittleness. There was nothing in the surface to justify such a haemorrhaging of wickets, but in failing to apply themselves, Pakistan slipped to 115 for 4 and left themselves with a difficult road back into the match.

It was Masood, who had been the shakier of the openers during day two’s play, who was first to depart. While Aslam struck early boundaries at the other end, Masood continued to stonewall, adding only a single to his overnight score of 15, off the first 12 deliveries he faced. Debutant right-arm quick Lahiru Gamage was the man to remove him. Bowling from around the wicket, Gamage got a delivery to jag towards Masood off the seam. The batsman would manage only to get an inside edge onto the delivery, before it clattered into middle stump.

Aslam was gone in the next over, and he took one of Pakistan’s reviews with him. Pinned in front of the stumps by Dilruwan Perera, Aslam was quickly given out, but perhaps felt he had got bat to ball, as he challenged the decision almost immediately. Replays showed the ball had struck pad first, however, and projections had the ball hitting virtually the middle of middle stump. Having been 61 for no loss, Pakistan suddenly had two new batsmen at the crease.

But the new pair was Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq. Both had minor troubles against Dilruwan, who had settled nicely at the crease after that first wicket, but otherwise appeared in control. An excellent delivery from Suranga Lakmal dismissed Shafiq after drinks however. Swinging in and straightening, the ball took Shafiq’s outside edge, and was held low to the ground by a tumbling Kusal Mendis at first slip. Babar Azam never really found his feet in this innings. Having earlier inside-edged a four, he tamely bunted Rangana Herath to short midwicket, a few minutes from the tea break.

Three recognised batsmen remain in play for Pakistan, with a first-innings deficit of 367 still to be conquered. New batsman Haris Sohail suggested he would not be cowed by the match situation when, second ball, he ran down the pitch and launched Herath over the straight boundary. Batting on 28 off 69 balls, Azhar Ali would seem to be the key man, if Pakistan are to make a fist of this innings.

Updated: October 8, 2017 — 12:48 pm

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