Excellent bowling effort brings Pakistan in touching distance of nullifying the trail on Day 1

Pakistan bowlers were breathing fire early on Day 1 as Abrar Ahmed continued to take wickets

Pakistan gave themselves a great chance of starting their 2023-25 ICC World Test Championship journey with a 2-0 whitewash against Sri Lanka, as after a thrilling four-wicket win in Galle, Babar Azam’s team had an outstanding Day 1 in the second Test at Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo, on Monday, 24 July. After bowling Sri Lanka out for only 166 runs, Pakistan ended the day on 145/2, trailing by only 21 runs with eight wickets in hand.

Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne opted to bat first after winning the toss, but it proved to be a catastrophic decision on a tricky Colombo pitch. To make matters even worse, another poor call from the batter cost Sri Lanka the first wicket.

In a mix-up between Karunaratne and Nishan Madushka, the latter lost his wicket in only the third over of the match. While Karunaratne himself managed to get going, his new partner, Kusal Mendis was not up to the task as well, edging a Shaheen Afridi delivery straight into the gloves of substitute wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan in the 7th over.

Next up, it was Naseem Shah’s turn to join the act, as he opened his tally in the 13th over. Veteran batter Angelo Matthews looked shaky in almost all of the deliveries he faced, and on the 26th delivery, he edged the ball and Sarfaraz Ahmed pouched the catch behind the stumps.

Naseem Shah picked up three crucial wickets

Having seen three of his key players depart for low scores, Karunaratne’s lonely fight ended just two overs later. Batting on 17 runs, he was bowled by Naseem, with Sri Lanka’s score reading 36/4. 

The hosts desperately needed a partnership as the threat of getting bowled out under 100 runs loomed large, and the partnership of Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva bailed them out from that particular scenario.

Both players complimented each other well, with Chandimal playing his usual game of holding the fort, and de Silva launching the attack on the opposition bowlers. Thanks to these two batters, the hosts did not lose any more wickets in the first session, with the score being 79/4 at lunch.

In the second session, Chandimal too tried to play a few high-reward shots, helping his team get into triple digits inside the 30th over. On the other hand, De Silva made Abrar Ahmed a target, scoring big against the young leg-spinner.

The partnership lasted 85 runs, but Naseem’s re-introduction into the attack did the trick for Pakistan. Enticing Chandimal to play the big shot, the pacer caught the edge of the bat and the ball landed in the safe hands of Imam ul-Haq sending the experienced batter back when he was looking comfortably set on a score of 34 runs.

One wicket brought another as Sadeera Samarawickrama’s poor run continued, with Abrar sending him back for a duck in only the next over. The wily spinner trapped the wicket-keeper batter who tried to defend with hard hands and ended up gifting a catch to Abdullah Shafique fielding at forward short leg.

The two wickets did not stop de Silva from playing his usual attacking game, as he also brought up his 13th half-century in Test cricket. But in the 37th over, Abrar brought the all-rounder’s downfall right after being subjected to a big maximum on the first ball of the same over. 

The eighth wicket followed soon, with Shan Masood deserving the credit this time. An excellent direct hit from the batter found Prabath Jayasuriya short of his crease, with the latter departing for just one run.

There was another decent partnership in the game, with Asitha Fernando and Ramesh Mendis adding 30 important runs for the ninth-wicket stand. The former scored eight runs before getting clean bowled by Abrar in the 47th over, while Ramesh played a quickfire knock of 27 runs before losing his wicket to Abrar, as the Pakistani leg-spinner completed his four-fer.

With their home side posting a lowly total of 166 runs, the Lankans needed a good start with the ball, and they got one thanks to Asitha Fernando. In only the third over, the pacer caught the inside edge of Imam-ul-Haq’s bat, and a fine catch from Madushka sent the Pakistani batter back.

Like Pakistan, Sri Lanka needed repeated breakthroughs to get back in the game, but an excellent second-wicket stand from Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood kept the green shirts ahead in the game. The pair added 108 runs, with both batters scoring half-centuries.

However, just after bringing up his seventh half-century in Test cricket, Masood lost his wicket to a mistimed pull shot, as Fernando added a second wicket to his name. Skipper Babar Azam also looked in good nick, as Pakistan did not lose any more wickets on the first day of the second test.

Due to bad light, Day 1 was called off as Pakistan was nearing Sri Lanka’s total and will start Day 2 at 145/2, only 21 runs less than the hosts’ total earlier in the day. Shafique is only 26 runs away from his fourth Test century, while Babar is looking solid, with a score of 8 runs.