Shafiq, Sarfraz keep Pakistan's hopes alive
By Krunal, MyCricketHighlights Cricket Writer
2nd Test: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai, Oct 06 - Oct 10, 2017, Cricket highlights
Just like yesterday, Day 4 also saw wickets falling in a heap. Initially, it was Sri Lanka who lost their 5 wickets for just 40 runs – in fact, they lost their last 3 wickets in one over of Haris Sohail – and were eventually bowled out for a mere 96. The visitors then reduced Pakistan to 52 for 5, after which Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed staged a comeback by stitching a fabulous partnership of 146 runs. It was only because of their partnership that Pakistan are very much in with a chance to win the match and level the series.
The day began with a couple of boundaries off the bat of Niroshan Dickwella, who sought the counter-attacking measure to put off the Pakistani bowlers. However, his quickfire knock of 21 soon came to an abrupt end when Sarfraz Ahmed took an absolutely stunning catch on the bowling of Wahab Riaz. In the very next over, Yasir Shah caught Dilruwan Perera plumb in front for a first ball duck, thereby reducing them to 60 for 7.
Sri Lanka’s overall lead at this stage was 280 and they desperately needed a partnership to get it over 300. They finally found one, albeit only for a brief while, as Kusal Mendis and Rangana Herath smacked a few boundaries and stitched a valuable partnership of 35 runs.
After Yasir Shah was smashed for a couple of fours in his previous over, Sarfraz brought Haris Sohail into the attack and the move paid rich dividends. Haris was not only able to break the Herath-Mendis stand, but he picked up two more wickets in the same over to wrap up the Sri Lankan innings on the score of 96.
Thanks to their first innings lead, Sri Lanka had a competitive total on the board to defend. On the other hand, Pakistan’s start to the chase was not the most fruitful one as they lost Sami Aslam in the fourth over of the innings. Then it was Azhar Ali and Shan Masood, who batted for almost 20 overs, but scored only 31 runs. At this point, it looked as if Pakistan were playing to save the match, rather than to win it. But to be fair to them, the pitch had become a tough one to bat on and there were no freebies on offer from the Sri Lankan bowlers.
The stand was broken by Nuwan Pradeep, who got rid of Azhar Ali. The credit for the wicket, however, should go to the Sri Lankan captain for his unusual field placement. He kept the fielder placed somewhere in between short-leg and square-leg and the ball, after coming off a thick inside edge, went straight to that fielder. After Pradeep gave them the breakthrough, it was Dilruwan Perera’s turn to send some shivers down the opposition’s dressing room.
The off-spinner picked up three big wickets in two overs (two in one over) and gave his team an outright chance of winning the match in the final session. Sri Lanka were five wickets away from a monumental win, but standing in their way were Asad Shafiq and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed. This was the last recognized batting pair left for Pakistan and a wicket of either of them would expose the tail to the Sri Lankan bowlers.
Shafiq, who had a pretty ordinary year, so far, by his own standards, had a really good chance of not only improving his personal record, but also saving his team from a likely defeat. And he exactly did that. Along with his captain, Shafiq scripted a terrific comeback in the last session and by building a partnership of 146 runs, kept the hopes alive of a Pakistan win. The intent with which both the batsmen played was amazing. They looked positive all throughout the session and were not bogged down by the fact that they were five down. Runs came thick and fast and both of them completed their respective fifties. In fact, Shafiq is just 14 runs away from a ton. He has already played one hell of an innings and if he is able to get his team over the line, it will surely be one of his best knocks till date.
The game going into the final day is nicely set up with both the teams having an equal chance of winning the match. While Pakistan need 119 runs to win, Sri Lanka, on the other hand, need to pick up 5 wickets, but most importantly break the partnership between Shafiq and Sarfraz.