Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Babar ton leaves Pakistan versus Sri Lanka first test evenly poised

GALLE, SRI LANKA (AP) – Pakistan captain Babar Azam pulled his side back from the brink with a century that helped the touring side dig themselves out of trouble on day two of the first test against Sri Lanka yesterday.

With Pakistan on 148-9, the writing appeared to be on the wall as they appeared set to concede a huge lead to the home side on a turning track. But a record partnership for the last wicket between Babar and Naseem Shah put Pakistan back in contention as they conceded just a four-run deficit in the first innings.

The 70-run stand between Babar and Naseem is a new record in Galle in tests with the previous best being the 63-run partnership between Dimuth Karunaratne and Lakshan Sandman against South Africa in 2018.

Sri Lanka were 36-1 at stumps on day two for a lead of 40. Oshada Fernando was unbeaten on 17 while night-watchman Kasun Rajitha was on 3.

Pakistan were struggling in their reply after Sri Lanka had posted 222 in their first innings before Babar played a captain’s knock.

Babar Azam plays a shot as Niroshan Dickwella watches. PHOTO: AFP

On a track where most Pakistan batsmen struggled to play spin, Babar was solid. Often playing on the front foot with soft hands negating the turn, he left well and cashed in when there were opportunities to score.

The last wicket partnership lasted for more than two hours and frustrated Sri Lanka, which had to take the second new ball to break the stand. By that time Babar, who was playing his first test match in Sri Lanka had posted his seventh hundred. His knock lasted more than five hours in which he faced 244 deliveries, hit 11 fours and two sixes.

Babar also dominated the strike from the number 11 with Naseem Shah contributing just five runs during the partnership.

Prabath Jayasuriya, meanwhile, continued his impressive run in tests. Playing his second test match, the left-arm spinner claimed his third five-wicket haul to finish with five for 82. He had been sidelined due to fitness issues and was picked to make his test debut in the second test against Australia after the Sri Lanka camp was hit by COVID-19. He claimed 12 for 177, the best figures by a Sri Lankan on debut.

Play got underway 30 minutes late due to a wet outfield.