GALLE, Sri Lanka (AP) — An unbeaten 86 by Dinesh Chandimal put Sri Lanka in a commanding position in the first test against Pakistan as it finished 329 for nine on day three in Galle on Monday.
Sri Lanka has a comfortable lead of 333 runs and should feel happy as no team has chased that many to win at test match at this ground. The highest successful run chase in Galle is 268 for four by Sri Lanka against New Zealand in 2019.
Former captain Chandimal, who was top scorer with 76 runs in the first innings, was a thorn in Pakistan’s flesh again stitching vital partnerships with the tail. He brought up his 23rd half-century with a single to covers off Naseem Shah.
Chandimal closed the day with five fours and two sixes from 121 deliveries. Prabath Jayasuriya was on four.
“Why we were able to score today was because we tackled spin well and we have played lot of cricket here recently,” Sri Lanka's Kusal Mendis, who hit 76, said. “Our lead is 333 now and we will try and get that beyond 350 to give the bowlers that psychological advantage.”
The 32-year-old Chandimal has been in good nick having posted a maiden double hundred against Australia last week as Sri Lanka went onto record a come from behind against the world’s top-ranked team.
Pakistan had an opportunity to dismiss Chandimal when he was on 68 but Hasan Ali put down a return catch. Pakistan also unsuccessfully reviewed a leg-before shout against him.
The game was evenly poised when the day began with Sri Lanka having a lead of 40 runs with nine wickets in hand. Pakistan knocked off night-watchman Kasun Rajitha early in the second over of the morning but a 91-run stand for the third wicket between Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando (64) steadied the innings.
However, after lunch, Pakistan claimed a few quick wickets to bounce back.
Yasir Shah dismissed Kusal Mendis with a ball that pitched well outside the leg-stump and then turned sharply and knocked top of off-stump beating the batsman’s defence.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Mohammad Nawaz, returning to the Pakistan side after six years, was the pick of the bowlers picking up a maiden five-wicket haul in the second innings.
“They have put up a good total, looking at the conditions, but it’s not impossible,” Nawaz said. “As a batting unit if we get two-three good partnerships then it will be achievable I think. On my return to Test cricket, happy that we had got a pitch like that and it was good to end up with a five-wicket haul.”
At 235 for seven, Pakistan was looking to keep Sri Lanka’s lead below 250, but yet again the tail hurt them.
Ramesh Mendis (22) added 32 runs with Chandimal for the eighth wicket while Maheesh Theekshana (11) added 41 runs for the ninth wicket to take Sri Lanka’s lead beyond 300 and make things almost impossible for the tourists. They were not done yet as number 11 Prabath Jayasuriya added a further 21 runs for the last wicket with Chandimal.
Play was called off early with six overs remaining due to bad light.
The Galle wicket provided lot of assistance for spin bowlers as it usually does here. Sri Lanka have been playing lot of cricket at this venue recently having played their last five home games here and they made most of that advantage.
“Three of us got runs today,” Mendis said. "But it’s not easy to score out there. It spins a lot. “Tomorrow is day four and it will get even tougher to score runs, especially after we get that roller in. We have three good spinners in our ranks and it will be tough for Pakistan to survive.”
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