Angelo Mathews played a captain’s knock for Sri Lanka, as his unbeaten innings of 77 helped the hosts take command of the third and final Test, after their top order crumbled yet again. At one point of time, Sri Lanka found themselves in strife at 35 for 3, but Mathews held the innings together with support from Upul Tharanga, Jehan Mubarak and Dinesh Chandimal. This was after Tharindu Kausha picked up his third wicket in the morning by clean bowling Imran Khan for a duck, giving the Lankans a first-innings lead of 63.
It was a typical fighting innings from Mathews. He displayed a solid defence, which he often does when he is in good nick. Mathews blocked a number of good deliveries that were bowled, but also ensured that he turned over the strike, picking up ones and twos at will. He did hit some boundaries whenever the opportunity presented itself. There were times when the batsman was beaten. However, every time that happened, Mathews overcame the same, and began his innings afresh. Yasir Shah was again among the wickets, but Mathews made sure he did not fall to the in-form spinner.
Earlier, Rahat Ali and Eshan Adil helped Pakistan fightback after the visitors had lost their last wicket early. Rahat extracted a lot of pace and bounce from the pitch, and got both Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne in the space of a few deliveries. They were beaten numerous times as Rahat and Adil troubled them with short balls mixed with length deliveries. Rahat bowled both Karunaratne and Thirimanne with balls that caught the batsmen in no-man’s land. At the one end, Adil got Kaushal Silva to nick one to Misbah-ul-Haq at slip, leaving Lanka in strife at 35 for 3.
Rain followed immediately after Sri Lanka lost their third wicket. After play resumed, Tharanga and Mathews batted with a positive intent. Mathews survived a review for lbw against Rahat before lunch. Tharanga had a close call against Imran, but Pakistan did not review what could have been a close lbw decision. They thought Tharanga had edged one onto the pad, but it was the sound of bat hitting pad. Tharanga made a quick 47 before inside edging Yasir to short leg. For the second time in the match, he had fallen after getting a start.
Sri Lanka had only progressed to 80 for 4 when Tharanga was dismissed. But, Mubarak and Mathews featured in a 81-run stand to put Lanka back on top. Having made 35, Mubarak also fell to Yasir, caught at short-leg. Chandimal then joined Mathews and hit five crisp fours as he raced to 39 in 47 balls, remaining unbeaten, giving good company to Mathews. Sri Lanka finished the day with a lead of 291, with five wickets still in hand.
--By A Cricket Correspondent