Shafique steers Pakistan to win over Sri Lanka in first test

GALLE: Abdullah Shafique scored an unbeaten 160 to lead Pakistan to a record run chase and a four-wicket victory on Wednesday in a series-opening cricket test that went ahead despite a political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

His 408-ball innings contained seven boundaries and a six in an innings, although the 22-year-old opener did get some reprieves.

Shafique was lucky to survive an LBW appeal when he was on four. He was dropped on 70 by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella on Day 4 and on the fifth day Dhananjaya de Silva failed to collect a return when Shafique was on 135 and Kasun Rajitha down a chance in the outfield with the batter on 151.

A rain delay after lunch on Day 5 slowed down Pakistan’s push for victory by an hour with 11 runs still required, but it really was only a matter of time. Shafique, in just his sixth test, hit the winning runs with a cover drive to the boundary and was voted player of the match.

The previous highest successful run chase at Galle was Sri Lanka’s 268 against New Zealand in 2019.

Together with overnight batsman Mohammad Rizwan, Shafique added 71 runs for the fourth wicket to help Pakistan inch toward the victory target of 342.

Rizwan eventually fell for 40 when Prabath Jayasuriya trapped him LBW, leaving Pakistan needing less than 70 runs with six wickets in hand.

Sri Lanka also claimed the wicket of Agha Salman (12) in the last over before lunch, when Jayasuriya had him caught behind.

The wicket eased out with a lack of bounce helping the batters as the first test wore on. Sri Lanka didn’t help its cause by spreading the field in a bid to stop boundaries and its defensive mindset only helped Pakistan’s batters take singles.

A protest against the rising cost of living and corruption was staged a few hundred meters from the stadium in Galle on Day 5 but didn’t interrupt the match. The protests in the capital Colombo have been taking place on a larger scale and forced cricket officials to shift the second test, originally scheduled for Colombo, to Galle with a Sunday start.

The first test finished not long after Sri Lankan lawmakers chose six-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as president, defying the risk the vote would re-ignite turmoil among a public outraged by the South Asian country’s dire economic, humanitarian and political crisis.

The vote means Wickremesinghe, prime minister and acting president, will succeed former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and finish the term ending in 2024 that Rajapaksa abandoned by fleeing the country and resigning earlier this month.

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