PALLEKELE: Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne hit a century amid another impressive haul by Pakistani leg-spinner Yasir Shah as the decisive third and final Test began on a rousing note in Pallekele on Friday.
The hosts, sent in to bat after Pakistan captain Misbahul Haq won the toss for the third time in a row, stuttered to 272-8 in their first innings by stumps on the opening day.
Left-handed Karunaratne anchored the innings with a dogged 130, his second Test century following the 152 against New Zealand in Christchurch last December.
Yasir ended the day with 4-77, taking his tally in the series to 21 wickets, the most by a Pakistani bowler in a three-Test series in Sri Lanka.
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The 29-year-old enabled Pakistan to keep the runs in check despite conditions favouring the batsmen on the evenly-paced pitch after the initial moisture on the wicket had dried up under the hot sun.
Pakistan secured an early break with the wicket of Kaushal Silva, who had scored 125 in Galle and 80 in Colombo.
This time Silva made nine when he was caught behind off left-arm seamer Rahat Ali, who was picked alongside Ehsan Adil and Imran Khan in a new-look pace attack.
The left-handed pair of Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga put on 91 for the second wicket on either side of lunch to lift the score to 106-1, before three wickets fell for 31 runs.
Tharanga, who replaced Kumar Sangakkara for the match, made 46 before he edged Yasir to slip where an alert Younus Khan took a smart catch diving in front.
Lahiru Thirimanne (11) and skipper Angelo Mathews (three) fell in successive overs from Yasir to mistimed drives as Sri Lanka slipped to 137-4.
Jehan Mubarak, recalled to the Test side after almost eight years, helped Karunaratne add 67 for the fifth wicket before he was stumped off Yasir for 25.
Azhar Ali, who had taken two wickets with his part-time spin in 43 previous Tests, then doubled his tally with the wickets of Karunaratne and Dhammika Prasad off successive balls.
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Karunaratne was stumped as he attempted a big heave and Prasad holed out to Yasir at deep square-leg to reduce Sri Lanka to 248-7.
Dinesh Chandimal then fell victim to the new ball, being trapped in front of the wicket by Rahat for 24, leaving Tharindu Kaushal (17) and Suranga Lakmal (one) unbeaten at stumps.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.
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