Colombo: With more than a day`s worth of overs lost to rain, and a pitch that was a scourge of bowlers, the SSC Test ended in the inevitable and dreary draw it was destined to be - the fourth such result in the venue`s last five matches. Only 20 wickets fell over the course of the Test - nine of them today - while 1128 runs were scored. The only vestigial hope of last-day drama lay in whether Pakistan`s bowlers could end Sri Lanka`s first innings early enough to enforce the follow-on. They did not, and that was that.
Sri Lanka achieved their objective of consolidating their position in the Test by not losing a wicket in the first session, with Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews steadfast during an 89-run period that saved the follow-on. In the second they collapsed: Junaid Khan completed the second five-wicket haul of a budding career and Sangakkara missed a double-century for the second time in consecutive Tests.
Having taken a 160-run lead in the first innings, Pakistan scored quickly in their second after lunch, at nearly six runs an over. They promoted left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman to No. 3, after the openers had added 51, with the license to swing. The move paid off and Pakistan`s lead increased rapidly to 259 at tea, but they did not declare then. Misbah-ul-Haq declared eight balls after the break, an odd decision that gave Pakistan`s bowlers 37 overs, instead of 40, to have a crack at Sri Lanka. The hosts were never in any danger during their final innings, though, and the captains agreed to call off the game as soon as they could. Sangakkara walked off unbeaten on 24, having done so much to preserve Sri Lanka`s 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
The fifth day in Colombo was hot and sunny, with no sign of the clouds that helped ruin this Test, but very few people turned up to watch, as Sangakkara resumed on 144 and Mathews began his innings. They focussed on risk-free survival. Junaid, who had sparked some life into the Test with two quick wickets on the fourth evening, beat the bat on occasion but created no scares.
Pakistan were not wayward with the ball, though. There was nothing happening for them, and when they tried to conjure something, the umpire Simon Taufel nipped it in the bud. Taufel noticed a fielder throwing the ball from a short distance on the bounce to the wicketkeeper, possibly hoping to scuff up one side, and told him not to do it. He had a word with the captain Misbah as well.
Every now and then Mathews would break the spate of dot balls and singles with muscular shots. Sangakkara, on the other hand, simply nudged around for the first 18 overs, before finally unfurling a stylish cover drive against Aizaz Cheema. Another quiet period followed before Sangakkara stepped out to loft Ajmal over his head for six.
Sangakkara ended the first session 13 short of his ninth double-century, Mathews four away from his ninth half-century, but Sri Lanka`s dominance of this day was about to end.
Junaid struck in his first over after the break, getting the ball to straighten on Mathews and inducing an edge to the wicketkeeper. He could have had another wicket next ball, but Taufel felt Prasanna Jayawardene had been struck marginally outside the line of off stump.
On 192, Sangakkara was undone by a soft shot. He came down the track and whipped a tame delivery from Rehman straight to square leg. Having been stranded on 199 in Galle, Sangakkara threw his head up in anguish and stormed back to the dressing room. The ball was reversing now, and Junaid collected his fifth scalp with a yorker that crashed into the stumps after nicking the inside edge of Nuwan Kulasekara`s bat.
The end came quickly after that, with Rehman mopping up. Sri Lanka lost five wickets for 21 runs to finish on 391 and their scorecard made for bizarre viewing: apart from Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who made centuries, only Mathews and Rangana Herath got into double-figures.
Pakistan`s openers set off with purpose, and Rehman coming in to pinch-hit at Mohammad Hafeez`s wicket seemed to signal a declaration was not far away. He played shots that belied his place in the tail, racing to 36 off 22 balls. Tea came and went, though, and Pakistan continued to bat. And when Misbah made his oddly-timed decision minutes after play had resumed in the final session, Mahela Jayawardene walked off the SSC looking bemused.
Hoping for anything but a draw was akin to buying fool`s gold, though, and Sri Lanka`s openers batted out 12 of the possible 37 overs. Ajmal and Rehman picked up a wicket apiece, and there were hoarse appeals for lbw and catches around the bat at every opportunity, but the players agreed to end the game at the first opportunity.
BDST: 2122 HRS, July 4, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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