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Skilful Mathews puts Sri Lanka ahead

Home side recovers from early blows to open up 291-run lead over Pakistan with five wickets standing

Skilful Mathews puts Sri Lanka ahead - Cricket News
Angelo Mathews, who made a fine unbeaten 77, put the team on the ascendancy with two days left.
For an hour after conceding a 63-run lead, Pakistan was in business. Sri Lanka’s top order wobbled, and the pacers had most things going their way – consistency, overhead conditions and fielders who were alert to pounce on half chances.
 
Then came a rain break shortly before tea on day three of the final Test in Pallekele on Sunday (July 5). As the evening unfolded, it became clear that it brought about a change of luck. Edges eluded the fielders and bowlers lost zip as the home side, with the sun on its backs, raced ahead courtesy Angelo Mathews, who made a fine unbeaten 77. Sri Lanka went into stumps at 228 for 5, an overall lead of 291.
 
Aiding Mathews for the better part of the last session was Dinesh Chandimal, the wicketkeeper who ended the day 39 not out after Jehan Mubarak, not for the first time in his comeback Test, threw it away after playing a brief but attractive knock.
 
That only two scores in excess of 250 have been successfully chased down in the fourth innings in Sri Lanka indicated the volume of work Pakistan had ahead of it in order to entertain thoughts of a 2-1 series win.
 
For large parts, there was bright sunshine, but the odd cloud cover and the sharp shower spiced up the contest every now and then. Admirably, Sri Lanka, who had to go off every time the batsmen looked like getting their eye in, didn’t look perturbed by the interruptions. Mathews, the glue around which the batting is set to revolve once Kumar Sangakkara retires next month, methodically constructed his innings.
 
However, to say his knock was only about patience wouldn’t be right for the loose deliveries were duly punished. Occasionally, as if to unsettle Yasir Shah, he also used his feet brilliantly to go over the top. His approach seemed to rub off on Chandimal as well as Misbah-ul-Haq turned to the part-time spin of Azhar Ali in the dying moments of play.
 
Earlier, the first two sessions ended on an even keel with the sides throwing punches and counter-punches at each other. Pakistan added just six to its overnight score of 205 for 9, Imran Khan the last man to fall to Tharindu Kaushal, the offspinner. It left Sarfraz Ahmed, fast gaining the reputation of being Pakistan’s go-to man, stranded on 78.


 
But a fired up Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil brought Pakistan back into the game courtesy an excellent new-ball burst. Dimuth Karunaratne’s (10) vulnerability against late swing was tested time and again before a Rahat delivery straightened to beat the outside edge and hit offstump. In the next over, Kaushal Silva’s (3) waft at an awaygoing Adil delivery resulted in an edge that carried low to Misbah at second slip to leave Sri Lanka at 22 for 2.
 
Lahiru Thirimanne (0) was under the cosh in the face of Pakistan’s sustained aggression, and his struggle ended as Rahat’s late awayswing curled in to beat the outside edge and hit the stumps. What followed was a brief recovery between Upul Tharanga (48) and Mathews, who put on 45 before there was another twist.
 
Tharanga, who hit six boundaries, was done in by sharp turn and bounce as a legbreak from Shah climbed onto him to take the inside-edge for to Azhar gleefully accepted the catch at short-leg. Mubarak then showed why he has been an underachiever at the Test level despite possessing all the shots in the book. Two stunning drives off Adil set him on his way, before an error in judgment to Shah – prodding half forward to lob a catch to short-leg – resulted in his downfall for 35.
 
Mathews and Chandimal then drove the game forward before bad light ended play for a third day running, with Sri Lanka having a definite edge.
 
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