(Cricinfo) Sri Lanka retained control of the second and final Test against Pakistan yesterday and by extension the series, thanks to Dimuth Karunaratne’s 196 and a pair of sprightly fifties from Niroshan Dickwella and Dilruwan Perera. Pakistan’s small victories, however, ensured the dream of a squared series endures into day three. For them, Yasir Shah claimed 6 for 184, becoming the first spinner to take five-wicket hauls in five successive Tests. Openers Sami Aslam and Shan Masood then moved the team to 51 for no loss in response to Sri Lanka’s 484. Sure, the hosts have a mountain to scale, but have at least begun the ascent without incident.
Karunaratne fitted Sri Lanka’s mighty innings with its spine, though, but to summarise his 63 runs on day two is to re-hash the account of his progress from day one. He was strong off his legs again, flicking deliciously, and pulling the ball with excellent control. He defused Yasir Shah judiciously again, routinely getting inside the line of the ball to work him towards square leg. At the end of the innings, his wagon wheel showed and unsurprising preference for the legside – 140 of his runs and 13 off his 20 boundaries coming on that side of the pitch. There were a couple of Yasir balls that took his inside edge, but on each occasion, he got enough bat on ball to send the ball wide of the close fielders.
The disappointment, of course, is that he surpassed his previous best – 187 against West Indies – but still did not progress to that maiden double hundred. This was largely because he was pinned down by Wahab Riaz in that period. Having failed to score off 14 of the 17 balls Wahab bowled to him after he got to 190, Karunaratne poked at a short delivery that came back slightly off the seam. The ball took his inside edge, hit his thigh pad, and clattered into his stumps.
But for all the substance Karunaratne’s innings had provided, it was Sri Lanka’s lower middle-order men whose enterprise gained their team the most ground on day two. Having come to the crease roughly halfway through the first session, Dickwella did as Dickwella does – heaving Yasir Shah over the legside off his ninth ball, before punching Amir through the covers soon after. There were more daring shots, including against-the-turn reverse sweeps against Yasir. He passed fifty for the second time in the series just after the tea break, before edging Mohammad Abbas behind, finishing with 52 off 53 balls.
Dilruwan Perera, who is rapidly confirming himself a bona fide allrounder, soon picked up where Dickwella left off. He clattered five of his seven boundaries off Yasir, while gathering 58 off 76 deliveries. When Yasir eventually bowled him around his legs, Sri Lanka’s score had passed 450. Though Rangana Herath made an unbeaten 26 – replete with his manic reverse-sweeps to spin and his swivel-pulls to the quick bowlers – Yasir polished the tail off quickly enough. Incredibly, having bowled 84 overs in the first Test, he had already delivered 55.3 overs in Dubai.
That his workload was so high was partly due to the absence of Amir. Late on day one, Amir left the field nursing an injury to his shin, but he had been cleared to bowl on the second day, and yet, could manage no more than three overs before leaving the field again.
To compound Pakistan woes in the first session, Wahab Riaz had a minor existential crisis. Briefly, he seemed to forget how it is he bowled. Attempting to deliver the fifth ball of his 19th over, Wahab aborted his run up five times, failing, inexplicably, to get into his usual delivery slide. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed was a picture of bewilderment. On the dressing room balcony, head coach Mickey Arthur was stomping around. Bowling coach Azhar Mahmood wore a vexed look as well.
In any event, Wahab collected himself at the tea break, and it was his discipline that helped keep Pakistan in the match through that Amir-less second session. Mohammad Abbas struck twice as well, while Yasir wheeled away at one end. Given how at one stage, Pakistan seemed on the brink of one of their spectacular unraveling, their performance through the second and third sessions was a relative show of character.
Their reward for holding it together was a fortuitous umpiring decision in the penultimate over of the match. Shan Masood had blocked his way to 15 off 53 balls before Dilruwan hit him in front of the stumps with a slider. The raucous appeal was turned down, but Sri Lanka chose not to challenge that decision, having already burnt a review in this innings. Sami Aslam, who was 30 off 49 balls by stumps, also survived a close call. He had been on 10 when he set off for a sharp single from the non-striker’s end, only to be sent back belatedly by his partner. Had Suranga Lakmal been more accurate with his throw, Pakistan would have lost an early wicket.