Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by four wickets to win the first of two Tests

GALLE: Pakistan made it a difficult chase at times but the visitors completed a four-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first Test on Thursday.

Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals but opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq scored an unbeaten half-century, his eighth in Test cricket, to see the tourists through before lunch on the fifth day.

Sri Lanka won the toss and batted, scoring 312, and Pakistan replied with 461 in its first innings. The home side scored 279 runs in its second at-bat, leaving Pakistan 131 runs to win.

Pakistan didn’t get off to a good start and limped to 48 for three at stumps on day four.

When play resumed on the final day, Pakistan needed 83 runs and there were memories of the 2009 Test at Galle. That’s when the visitors needed 97 runs with eight wickets in hand chasing a target of 168 but collapsed and were bowled out for 117.

Babar Azam added 41 runs for the fourth wicket Thursday with Imam and the run chase looked a mere formality, but Prabath Jayasuriya trapped the Pakistan captain for 24 to give Sri Lanka some hope.

Saud Shakeel and Imam then added 43 runs for the fifth wicket with the former being the more dominant partner with his clever footwork against the spinners. He had come down the track and executed an elegant cover drive off Ramesh Mendis but was caught behind the next ball to give Mendis his first wicket in the innings.

Jayasuriya claimed his fourth wicket when Sarfraz Ahmed, attempting to sweep, was caught at backward square leg by Kusal Mendis.

While wickets were falling on the other end, Imam was unbeaten on 50 having faced 84 deliveries and hit four fours and one six.

Agha Salman walked in at the fall of the sixth wicket with Pakistan needing four runs and he completed the victory by depositing Jayasuriya over long-off for six.

Shakeel was named man of the match, having posted a double century under tremendous pressure in the first innings.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam praised Shakeel, who was playing just his sixth Test match.

“Saud Shakeel was unbelievable,” he said. “We are very happy for him. We lost early wickets in the first innings but the way he absorbed the pressure was superb. His effort helped us to get ahead of the game. Very satisfied with the way he went about things. Galle is not an easy wicket to bat but he made it look easy.”

Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne also praised his deputy Dhananjaya de Silva, who scored 122 and 82 runs in the match.

“We have to learn from Dhananjaya,” Karunaratne said. “He showed how to bat when the bowling is on top. If someone had taken responsibility and hanged around with him, we could have posted decent totals. To win the toss and not to score big when conditions were best for batting was so disappointing.”

The second Test begins next Monday in Colombo.


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