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PAK v SL, 1st Test, Day 3, Review: Azhar Ali leads Pakistan’s response on another slow day

Pakistan ended the day at 266/4 with Azhar unbeaten on 74.

Azhar Ali
Azhar Ali of Pakistan bats during Day Three of the First Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. (Photo Source: Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Azhar Ali led Pakistan’s response as they crawled towards the score Sri Lanka posted on another low-scoring day of Test cricket in the UAE. The wicket was expected to break up on day 3 but barring a short passage of play, the hosts smoothly saw through the day. Only 202 runs were scored in the stipulated 89.4 overs as the umpires called stumps after the fall of Babar Azam off the last ball of the day. Ali was at his immovable best and carried his bat right through the day after surviving the initial scare.

The opening pair of Shan Masood and Sami Aslam resumed their partnership at the score of 64/0 in the morning. Both were totally comfortable against the seam bowlers but were more cautious as the tweakers came on to bowl. They laid a solid platform and reached the century partnership. In the process, Masood and Aslam both brought up their half-centuries as the visitors realised they were in for a long day.

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But just before the lunch, the spinners started to take control and the shooter from Dilruwan Perera pinned the latter in front to provide Sri Lanka with a vital breakthrough. Soon the wily old fox Rangan Herath got into his own groove and castled the other opener Masood who missed his sweep shot.

Wicketless middle session

Azhar too was given out by the umpire Nigel Llong on the duck but Decision Review System saved him and then he got set. The middle session was expected to be a moving one after the pitch had started to show its tricks but the duo of Asad Shafiq and Ali didn’t give Sri Lanka an inch and fought through the middle session.

The visitors too bowled with patience and made the run-scoring difficult for them. But the session lacked in animation and the crowd which was almost non-existent despite the free entry dozed off. The action was hardly the best advertisement for how Test cricket is to thrive in the 21st century. The loudest applause was heard when Azhar Ali dabbed a single to the mid-wicket and brought up his 5000 runs in the longest format of the game.

Sri Lanka snaffle Shafiq and Babar in the final session

New life might have breathed into the game after Herath spun a web around Asad Shafiq who scored 39 off a whopping 119 balls but the pattern of the day never changed. Pakistan looked satisfied with their safety-first approach as the bowlers kept proving around. Just when it seemed that Pakistan might finish the day on top, Babar Azam lost his concentration and slashed at a wide delivery only to nick it to the wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella. The wicket evened out the day as the host didn’t score many and lost 4 wickets. Azhar Ali remains key for Pakistan who remained unbeaten on 74 with 3 boundaries and the visitors would look to pick him early to set the panic button in the Pakistan camp.

The trio of the visitors’ spinners bowled their hearts out on a dead wicket which offered slow turn which gave the batsmen enough to gauge it. But they bowled well and strung 19 maidens between them. Herath scalped a couple and Perera got one wicket as the chinaman is yet to taste success in this innings.

The actionless day had its moments but no one looked to seize the advantage which leaves the future of the Test match in the doldrums. Until one of the teams decide to take charge, the outcome of the Test match is least expected as the pitch is not breaking up either. The first session of the fourth day might decide the fate of this match but for now, draw looks the fair result.

Brief Scores

Sri Lanka: 419/10 after 154.5 overs (D Chandimal 155*; M Abbas 3/75, Y Shah 3/120)

Pakistan: 266/4 after 112.4 overs (Azhar Ali 74*; R Herath 2/47)

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