Stumps Pakistan 563 for 5 (Shafique 201, Agha 132*) lead Sri Lanka 166 by 397 runs
By stumps, Pakistan had amassed 563 for 5 and a lead of 397, with the only question remaining being one of when exactly the declaration would be made. While there are still two full days of cricket left to play, it’s unlikely the weather will allow for the full six sessions to play out.
At the crease at the close were Agha on a 148-ball 132 with Mohammad Rizwan alongside him on 37 off 61. Rizwan had been drafted in as a concussion sub after Sarfaraz Ahmed had copped an Asitha Fernando bouncer on the back of his helmet; he would bat on following the blow, but would have to retire hurt following a late onset of symptoms.
As for Sri Lanka’s bowlers, they toiled all day for little reward. The three main attacking options – Prabath Jayasuriya, Ramesh Mendis and Asitha Fernando – were all taken for triple digits. And the few wickets that came, only arrived after significant damage had been done, and at an agonisingly slow rate – one per session.
A brief glance at the session scoring rates tells its own story, with each progressively expunging any life out the Sri Lankan attack; the morning session saw 95 runs at 2.92 per over, the middle session 124 runs at 4.43 per over, and then in the final session Pakistan plundered 166 runs at 5.03. Pakistan’s list of partnerships, meanwhile, read as follows: 13, 108, 89, 109, 25, 124 and 95.
But this is not to takeaway from the batting itself, which was far from tedious. In fact, one could argue it’s some of the most effective going around. In hindsight, the pacing of the day’s play seemed tailored to sussing out any potential Sri Lankan ambitions of reeling themselves back into the game.
The morning session, as highlighted by the aforementioned scoring rate, was a slow burn. It took 13 balls for the first scoring shot, a pull to the backward square leg boundary, and then the next 18 deliveries saw just two runs scored. Boundaries would litter the session, but in general it was a cautious one by the visitors. Crucially though, they had lost just the wicket of Babar.
But as the day progressed and the afternoon sun began to beat down harder, so did Pakistan’s batters. Shafique would prove the constant – defending stoically, lofting majestically and easing pressure like a well-oiled valve. At the other end was where the dynamism was sought. Shakeel was the initial foil, but once he fell business really picked up.
Pakistan’s lead at that point was a touch over 150, with quick runs the order of the day. Enter Sarfaraz, who would crack three boundaries in his 22-ball stay before being ruled out of the Test. Agha would follow and he would scarcely slow down. His fifty came off just 50 deliveries, his century off 123; by the end of play he had notched 15 fours and six.
Shafique, meanwhile, continued to play like he had done throughout the innings, knocking over the strike with the odd boundary thrown into the mix. Only once he reached his double-century, did he play a shot in anger, slicing one high to mid-off.
But like with each wicket that preceded it, this one only brought more pain for the hosts, as concussion sub Rizwan matched Agha’s intensity, and the visitors piled on ever more runs.
There was speculation a declaration might have been forthcoming in the final hour before stumps, but now the wait is to see if there will be one made overnight. Sri Lanka might be looking forward to the reprieve, but unless rain intervenes, they still have a substantial grind ahead if they’re to save this Test.