|Tharanga Paranavitana led the comeback with 42 not out after the third day of play [AFP]|
Sri Lanka put on an improved batting display in their second innings as they began to eat into a big Pakistan lead in the second Test at Dubai Stadium on Friday.
Sri Lanka, who conceded a big 164-run lead in the first innings, moved to 88-1 at stumps on the third day on a pitch that is taking spin and keeping low, which sets up an intriguing last two days.
Opener Tharanga Paranavitana (42) and former captain Kumar Sangakkara (29) were unbeaten, having put on 66 valuable runs for the unbroken second wicket stand after they lost opener Lahiru Thirimanne (eight) early.
They still need 76 runs to avoid an innings defeat.
Sri Lanka will look for a repeat of their second innings performance in the drawn first Test in Abu Dhabi, where Sangakkara scored an epic match-saving double hundred.
So cautious were the batsmen against Pakistan’s pace-cum-spin attack that Paranavitana hit only two boundaries and Sangakkara was yet to hit any during a near two hour stay at the crease.
Pakistan’s bowlers unleashed tight line and length and appealed vociferously as the ball spun, but failed to remove the second wicket pair.
Earlier, Pakistan were dismissed for 403 an hour after lunch, with Asad Shafiq scoring 59 and wicket-keeper and batsman Adnan Akmal chipping in with a useful 41.
Dhammika Prasad and Tillakaratne Dilshan chipped in with three wickets apiece while Chanaka Welegedara and spinner Rangana Herath took two each.
It was Welegedara who gave Sri Lanka the much-needed early breakthrough by dismissing Misbah-ul Haq (41) in the second over of the day and nightwatchman Saeed Ajmal (20) after Pakistan resumed at 281-4.
Pakistan had looked to their captain Misbah to steer them to a big lead, but the experienced batsman fell caught behind, chasing a wide delivery from Welegedara.
Misbah hit two boundaries and a six.
Ajmal frustrated Sri Lankan bowlers, adding an invaluable 41 for the sixth wicket before Welegedara produced a sharp outgoing delivery and the ensuing edge was well taken by Angelo Mathews in the slip.
Shafiq, initially cautious, then opened up by hoisting left-arm spinner Rangana Herath over long-on for a six and at the other end Akmal drove Welegedara twice to cover boundaries.
In the same Welegedara over Shafiq hit another boundary to take Pakistan’s lead past the hundred mark, before a couple off Herath saw him reach his third Test half-century.
Shafiq fell soon after lunch when he cut casually off Prasad straight into the hands of gully where Mahela Jayawardene held an easy cath. Shafiq had hit four boundaries and a six.
Herath then dismissed Abdul Rehman (nought) and Umar Gul (two) in the same over before Dilshan had Akmal caught behind to finish the innings.
The third and final Test will be played in Sharjah from 3-7 November.