Test cricket finally returned to Pakistan on Wednesday, 11 December, and the crowds that gradually poured into the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium were treated to a fine day of action, at the end of which Sri Lanka were 202/5.
Only 68.1 overs were possible on the day, though, with bad light forcing early stumps. There were question marks over light for most of the day – the floodlights were turned on even with the sun beating down in the second session.
Both teams will be fairly happy with how the day went. Sri Lanka opted to bat and began well, with Dimuth Karunaratne, their captain, and Oshada Fernando putting their foot down in a solid display of batting.
They ensured Pakistan had no joy in the first session, taking Sri Lanka into lunch at 89 for no loss, with Karunaratne having moved things along to bring up his half-century late in the first session. However, upon resumption, it was evident that Pakistan's pacers had found their collective mojo.
Within five overs of the restart, Shaheen Shah Afridi took the first Test wicket on Pakistan soil in over a decade when he had Karunaratne trapped in front with a full ball, after the batsman missed his flick. He reviewed, but that was always hitting the stumps, and Pakistan had their breakthrough.
The wickets came more frequently thereafter. Fernando, having scored a commensurate 81-ball 40, lasted just a little more than five overs after that, with young Naseem Shah inducing an edge that was taken low by Haris Sohail at first slip.
Kusal Mendis, who had grafted for 47 balls for 10 runs, became the third batsman to fall in another six overs, Usman Shinwari the wicket-taker this time, forcing the batsman to poke at a length ball. When Mohammad Abbas then sent back Dinesh Chandimal, knocking back his off stump after pitching one at a length on middle, Sri Lanka were reduced to 127/4.
Sri Lanka needed to regroup, and they did. Angelo Mathews (31 off 77) and Dhananjya de Silva (38* off 77) decided Pakistan would have to work harder for the wickets, and they put on 62 for the fifth wicket, taking Sri Lanka into the tea break without further harm to their wickets column.
They batted into the final session, and seemed good to carry on and put on a big partnership when Naseem finally broke Mathews' patience. He tempted him with one around off, and Mathews, having restricted himself from hard-handed shots all day, went after it, only to be caught second slip.
Niroshan Dickwella then came in, and in typical fashion found the fence a couple of times during the 13 balls he faced. It helped take Sri Lanka past the 200 mark, but the umpires then decided the light levels were insufficient, and the players withdrew to the dressing room.
Play will begin 30 minutes early on the second morning.
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