Test cricket’s top-ranked spinner Rangana Herath skittled Pakistan’s top order on his way to surpassing the 250-wicket mark to put Sri Lanka on top in the second Test in Colombo on Friday.
The 36-year-old left-arm bowler grabbed five wickets as Pakistan, replying to Sri Lanka’s first-innings total of 320, were reduced to 140-5 after tea on the second day at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
The sixth-wicket pair of Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed stemmed the rot with a 93-run stand that lifted the tourists to 244-6 by stumps, still trailing by 76 runs with four wickets in hand.
Shafiq became Herath’s 251st victim, bowled for 42 just before stumps, but Sarfraz remained unbeaten on a fighting 66 in a match the tourists must win to level the two-match series.
Sarfraz, the dapper wicket-keeper, insisted Pakistan will not lose sight of the fact that they must win the game.
“We are here to win,” he said. “We will remain positive for the rest of the match. The pitch is getting slower and it is difficult to score freely. Spinners will have a big role to play.”
Sarfraz lauded Herath’s effort, calling him a world class spinner. “Lot of credit to Herath,” he said. “He knows these conditions so well and makes the most of it.”
Herath, playing his 57th Test, is only the third Sri Lankan bowler to reach the 250-wicket mark after world record holder Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and Chaminda Vaas (355).
“It is a big achievement for a spinner, especially since I have about 200 wickets in the last five-six years.” said Herath, who got few opportunities when Muralitharan was in the side.
“I am extremely happy to achieve this landmark so late in my career. I always think of how I can be of assistance to the team with my style of bowling.”
Herath said it was important to get Pakistan out quickly and then put up a big score in the second innings to tighten the screws on the tourists.
“There is already some help for the spinners but not much. But it will take spin by the fourth day,” he said.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad anchored the innings with 58, but his dismissal just before tea turned the tide in Sri Lanka’s favour as Pakistan lost four wickets in the space of 30 runs.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2014.
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