Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by four wickets in 1st Test
Opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq hit an unbeaten 50 to steer Pakistan home in their tricky chase of 131 against Sri Lanka and win the first Test by four wickets on Thursday.
The tourists started the final day on 48-3 and lost three more wickets, including skipper Babar Azam for 24 off Prabath Jayasuriya, before they achieved the target in the first session.
Haq started the day on 25 and remained calm with Azam and then left-handed partner Saud Shakeel, who made a brisk 30 after his unbeaten 208 in Pakistan’s first innings.
Left-arm spinner Jayasuriya took four wickets including two on the evening of day four to give the hosts a glimmer of hope, but Haq stood firm.
Azam came out roaring as he hit a boundary off the first ball of the day and looked fluent in his 28-ball stay before being trapped lbw by Jayasuriya.
Shakeel took on the bowlers as well but off-spinner Ramesh Mendis got him caught behind.
Haq reached his eighth Test fifty before falling to Jayasuriya, but Agha Salman came out to hit the winning six.
Shakeel stood out for his maiden Test double century in Pakistan’s 461 all-out and a handy first-innings lead of 149 in the rain-hit match.
Pakistan spinners Noman Ali and Abrar Ahmed made it count with three wickets each on Wednesday to help bowl out Sri Lanka for 279 despite Dhananjaya de Silva’s stubborn 82.
Dhananjaya de Silva stood out for Sri Lanka with his 122 in the first innings and then 82 in the second but the rest of the batting faltered.
Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne acknowledged their batting had flopped. “In this match, all our main batters didn’t make runs,” Karunaratne told reporters.
“Usually two-three batters performed in the top seven, but apart from Dhananjaya’s contribution there was nothing big from the rest.”
Pakistan pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi took a match haul of five wickets on his return to Tests since a knee injury put him out of action a year ago at the same venue.
The second Test starts Monday in Colombo.
Soon after the Test concluded, the Pakistan Cricket Board tweeted a video of a “beaming” coach Grant Bradburn.
Azam lauds ‘improved’ Shakeel after Test win
Meanwhile, Azam said his team’s latest Test hero, Shakeel, had stepped up his game and showcased new shots in his match-winning unbeaten 208 against Sri Lanka.
Shakeel’s 177-run partnership with Agha Salman, who hit 83, helped Pakistan bounce back from 101-5 in their reply to Sri Lanka’s 312.
“Saud has improved a lot. He has been working hard after the New Zealand series,” Azam said of the man of the match.
“He attended two camps in Lahore and Karachi. I spoke with him and he told me he had developed a few shots which he applied in this innings.
“As captain, I am very satisfied with his performance. When he came to bat we had lost four wickets and Saud and Salman built the partnership.”
Azam added: “When your team-mate performs well and your team wins the match it gives a lot of confidence, especially in different conditions, and youngsters like Saud, Salman and Abrar Ahmed stepped up and performed.”
Shakeel looked assured in his stroke-making in his marathon knock and then a cameo of 30 on the fifth day.
1st Test scoreboard
Final scoreboard on day five of the opening Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Galle on Thursday:
Sri Lanka 1st innings 312 (D. de Silva 122; Shaheen 3-86, Naseem 3-90, Abrar 3-68)
Pakistan 1st innings 461 (S. Shafique 208 not out, R. Mendis 5-136)
Sri Lanka 2nd innings 279 (D. de Silva 82; N. Ali 3-75, Abrar 3-68)
Pakistan 2nd innings (target 131 – overnight 48-3, Haq 25, Azam 6)
A. Shafique 8 c Samarawickrama b Jayasuriya8
Imam-ul-Haq 50 not out
S. Masood 7 c Madushka b Jayasuriya
N. Ali 0 run out (Mendis/Jayasuriya)0
B. Azam 24 lbw Jayasuriya
S. Shakeel 30 c Samarawickrama b Mendis
S. Ahmed 1 c Mendis b Jayasuriya
A. Salman 7 not out
6 Extras (b4, lb3)
Total (6 wickets, 32.5 overs)133
Did not bat: A. Ahmed, S. Shah Afridi, N. Shah
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Shafique), 2-36 (Masood), 3-38 (Noman), 4-79 (Azam), 5-122 (Shakeel), 6-127 (Sarfaraz)
Bowling: Fernando 2-1-6-0, Mendis 14-1-62-1, Jayasuriya 14.5-0-56-4, De Silva 2-1-2-0
Toss: Sri Lanka
Result: Pakistan won by four wickets
Series: Pakistan lead the two-match series 1-0
Umpires: Alex Wharf (ENG), Rod Tucker (AUS)
TV umpire: Chris Gaffaney (NZL)
Match referee: David Boon (AUS)