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Pakistan struggles as Azhar Ali celebrates another ton – 3rd Test vs. Sri Lanka

Zia Rana July 11, 2012

Pakistan first innings 226 (Asad Shafiq 75, Misbah-Ul-Haq 40, Thisara Perera 4-63) second innings 299-8 (Azhar Ali 136, Asad Shafiq 55*, Rangana Herath 4-64) leads Sri Lanka first innings 337 (Tharanga Paranavitana 75, Thisara Perera 75, Junaid Khan 5-70) by 188 runs.

Azhar Ali got the honour of becoming the only batsman to hammer three Test tons in 2012 as Pakistan scrabbled in the final Test vs. Sri Lanka.

Pakistan scored 226 runs in their first innings followed by 299 for the loss of eight wickets in 104 overs at the close of the fourth day’s play. Sri Lanka piled up 337 runs before they were bowled out in their first innings in 100.2 overs.

The fourth day’s play came to an end on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.

Azhar Ali - The first batsman to smash three Test tons in 2012

Azhar Ali – The first batsman to smash three Test tons in 2012

Earlier, Pakistan started their second innings at 27 after losing one wicket in six overs, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali were unbeaten for 8 and 6 runs respectively. Both batsmen initiated well and dispatched the loose ball towards the boundary continuously and the first fifty of the innings was attained in the 14th over. They did not take any chance and kept on creeping at a reasonable rate and most importantly secured their wickets.

The score board crept to 100 in the 32nd over and Mohammad Hafeez reached his fifty in the following over. The score was enhanced to 110 runs in 35.3 overs when Mohammad Hafeez was caught in the slip by Tharanga Paranavitana off Dilhara Fernando for 52 from 100 balls with 6 fours. The most experienced batsman, Younis Khan joined in next and started off well by getting a couple of fours as Azhar Ali completed his half century in the 41st over.

Younis Khan got a life when he was dropped by the wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene off Angelo Mathews at 12 runs. He was unable to manipulate the chance and was gone after the addition of seven runs in his individual score as the total reached 158. The visitors lost another important wicket of their skipper, Misbah-Ul-Haq who scored just five runs and the fourth wicket was gone at 176 in 56.1 overs.

The young gun of Pakistan, Asad Shafiq took guards in the centre and tried to stabilise the innings with the smooth going Azhar Ali. They played all bowlers as per merit, kept on adding useful runs for the team and 200 of the innings was posted on board in the 68th over. Azhar Ali thrashed his fourth Test ton on the fourth ball of the 73rd over and became the first batsman to score three Test centuries in 2012.

The Islanders took the new ball in the 81st over to break the partnership when the visitors had reached 237 runs. The fast bowlers remained unimpressive and the batsmen saw off the new ball with great authority and accumulated valuable runs as well. Azhar Ali became aggressive after scoring hundred and sent the ball out of the fence at will as Asad Shafiq kept his cool at the other end.

The 100 runs partnership was completed after the score reached 276 in 91 overs and the lead was extended to 165. The Lankan Lions finally got a breakthrough at the same total when Azhar Ali was caught behind by Prasanna Jayawardene off Fernando for 136 from 284 deliveries with 13 fours on the third ball of the 92nd over.

Dilhara Fernando grabbed his 100th Test wicket when he got rid of Mohammad Sami who was declared leg before wicket for just three runs. Umar Gul went back to the pavilion without opening his account as Saeed Ajmal came in the centre. Asad Shafiq carried on with his composed innings and achieved another fifty on the third ball of the 98th over. Saeed Ajmal became the next victim after contributing five runs and the injured Adnan Akmal replaced him.

Pakistan reached 299 runs with two wickets in hand at stumps on day four and has secured an overall lead of 188. Asad Shafiq was unbeaten for 55 and Adnan Akmal yet to open his account.

Rangana Herath was the highest wicket taker with four, Dilhara Fernando held three and Nuwan Kulasekara claimed one wicket.

Pakistan will look forward to adding another 50-60 runs to the total and Asad Shafiq is capable of doing that. Sri Lanka will anticipate folding the tail quickly and dictating their terms on the final day.

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