PALLEKELE: Pakistan’s brittle top-order undid the good work by leg-spinner Yasir Shah as Sri Lanka seized control of the series-deciding third and final Test in Pallekele on Saturday.
Having been bowled out for 278 in the first innings, Sri Lanka hit back to reduce Pakistan to 209-9 by stumps on the second day that saw 11 wickets fall on the evenly-paced pitch.
Nuwan Pradeep grabbed 3-26 in 14 steady overs and fellow seamer Dhammika Prasad chipped in another three wickets to cause a dramatic Pakistani collapse.
Sarfraz Ahmed returned unbeaten on a gallant 72 and Azhar Ali made 52, but none of the other batsmen settled down to form a sizeable partnership.
Pakistan were struggling at 152-7 when Yasir helped Sarfraz add 45 for the eighth wicket, himself contributing 18 with the bat to follow his impressive bowling.
Yasir claimed another five-wicket haul as Sri Lanka added six runs to their overnight score of 272-8 before they were dismissed within 20 minutes of the start.
Tharindu Kaushal was leg-before to left-arm seamer Rahat Ali for 18 and last man Pradeep fell in the same fashion to Yasir without scoring.
Yasir finished with 5-78, joining his idol Shane Warne as the only overseas bowlers to claim five or more wickets in an innings three times during a Test series in Sri Lanka.
Yasir had taken 2-79 and 7-76 in the first Test in Galle to fashion Pakistan’s 10-wicket win. He then claimed 6-96 and 2-55 in the second match in Colombo that Sri Lanka won by seven wickets.
The 29-year-old, who hails from the Khyber region of northwest Pakistan, has already grabbed 59 wickets in a 10-Test career which began in October last year.
Azhar said Pakistan could still turn the Test in their favour with three days remaining.
“This Test is open and the closer we get to their total, it will improve our chances,” he said. “The third innings of the match is always very important, and if we can get them early, we can turn this match around.
“We are very positive. Our problem today was we were not able to build partnerships. But tomorrow is a new day and time to make a fresh start.”
Sri Lankan coach Marvan Atapattu credited the bowlers for the turnaround after the modest first innings total.
“It’s a great comeback from the bowlers,” he said. “The wicket is much better than the scores tell you. It’s been disciplined bowling and we’ve also been good on the field.
“We’re really happy with where we are at the moment.”
Pakistan lost both openers, Shan Masood and Ahmed Shehzad, by the score of 40 and star batsman Younis Khan was run out off the last ball of the morning session to make it 45-3.
Azhar and Asad Shafiq repaired the early damage with a 46-run stand for the fourth wicket on either side of a 19-minute interruption for rain early in the post-lunch session.
A heavy downpour for the second time forced the umpires to call for an early tea, but Pakistan’s woes just refused to end as the next three wickets fell for 17 runs in five overs.
Azhar was on 49 and Pakistan still 158 runs behind when he was reprieved by TV umpire Sundaram Ravi after on-field official Paul Reiffel had declared him caught behind off Prasad.
But Azhar only managed to add another three runs when he edged a drive off Pradeep to be snapped up by Dimuth Karunaratne at second slip.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq, who came in to bat at number seven due to a mild groin strain, became Pradeep’s third scalp when he was given out leg-before after making six.