The highlights of an action-packed day in Galle were Dhananjaya and Afridi
Large portions of the first day’s play in Galle was postponed by rain, but in between each of those breaks, Pakistan and Sri Lanka engaged in a gripping tug of war that saw the visitors surge ahead thanks to a three-wicket burst from Shaheen Shah Afridi before the hosts reeled them in with a 131-run fifth wicket stand from Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva.
While Angelo Mathews, who had looked commanding during his 109-ball 64, was dismissed on the edge of tea, Dhananjaya and Sadeera Samarawickrama (36 off 57) stitched together another crucial partnership before Pakistan dealt Samarawickrama one last blow on the cusp of stumps when he was brilliantly caught at short leg by Imam-ul-Haq. Sri Lanka currently has 242 for 6.
With Ramesh Mendis, who is now the final recognized batter in addition to Dhananjaya, ready to come in next, those final two wickets may have effectively ended Pakistan’s day. However, Pakistan won’t be jumping the gun given that Dhananjaya is still undefeated on 94 from 157 deliveries.
This is especially true given that he has spent the majority of the day demonstrating his growing propensity for coming through when Sri Lanka most needs him.
His team was 54 for 4 as he entered the crease this time. In the morning session, this occurred during the hour of play that was divided between an 85-minute rain delay and a late lunch.
Prior to the rain delay, Shaheen Shah Afridi had already dismissed Nishan Madushka to claim his 100th Test wicket in just over five overs of play. However, after the interruption, he really turned things around by squaring up Kusal Mendis to have him caught at second slip and then strangling the set Dimuth Karunaratne down the leg side.
Any movement the seamers had observed earlier in the day, however, had virtually disappeared by the time they returned from the break and the sun had emerged. In order to respond to Pakistan’s attacks, Mathews and Dhananjaya set to work at this point. At least 120 runs were scored during this session.
A few of magnificent straight drives were played by Mathews, who was in fine form. After Mathews and Dhananjaya demonstrated their resiliency, Babar Azam briefly toyed with the idea of using short balls, but he quickly abandoned it. This may have been because the ball held up on the surface whenever it was dug in.
Abrar Ahmed and Noman Ali, two spinners, bowled the entirety of the middle session as a result. The fact that Galle was still in its first day made it impossible for either of them to exert any kind of coordinated pressure because there wasn’t much turn available.
While Dhananjaya decided to play the aggressor, Mathews found rotating strikes to be rather simple. Noman, who was unfortunate enough to be the target of the majority of this aggression, was taken for four fours and two sixes, the most notable of which was an immaculate inside-out drive over long-off.
As the session came to an end, Mathews joined in the fun, taking Agha Salman for back-to-back boundaries through midwicket; in all, he would score nine boundaries. This caused the run rate to increase. When he feathered a cut through to the wicketkeeper off Abrar, he appeared to be on track for what would have been his 16th Test century.
Noman was mainly unproductive at the other end, so Babar decided to go with Naseem. Here, the short ball technique was once again working, along with a variety of other field placements such catching mid-ons and mid-offs, with little success.
However, after play was once more suspended by rain in the middle of the last session, Pakistan found its footing and produced an exciting seven-over period just before play was over.
While Samarawickrama was being troubled, Afridi was operating from one end of the field and once more discovering lateral movement off the surface where there had previously appeared to be none.
Salman, who had previously been largely ineffective, was brought in to bowl the final over of the day—his fifth overall—and was ultimately responsible for the crucial breakthrough. He got Samarawickrama to pop one off bat and pad to the right of Imam, who dove full length to his right but managed to hold on, as Pakistan ended the day with the better mood of the two teams.
Sri Lanka 242 for 6 (Dhananjaya 94*, Mathews 64, Afridi 3-63) vs Pakistan