By BV Swagath
Stumps on Day 4: The SSC Test has come alive with Sri Lanka needed to bat extremely well on the morning session on Day 5 to ensure a draw. The match was considered to be dead once Dilshan and Sangakkara had gone past their respective centuries. However, a couple of late blows from young left arm pacer Junaid Khan inspired Pakistan to reduce Sri Lanka to 278 for 5 by Stumps on Day 4.
The hosts would need to get to the target of 352 to avoid the follow on first thing on the final day. Once they do that, Pakistan will have to bat again for a second time and that will confirm a draw. Pakistan still have a slim chance of forcing a victory with the ball taking sharp turn. But they have to take 15 wickets in a hurry should they manage to enforce a follow on. Again it is unlikely with Sri Lanka still having Kumar Sangakkara surviving the entire fourth day’s play to remain unbeaten on 144 (from 254 balls with 14 fours). Sanga is expected to get decent support from the likes of Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene and Nuwan Kulasekara to bail Sri Lanka out of any potential trouble tomorrow morning.
The opening for Pakistan came for Pakistan in the 70th over when centurion Tillakaratne Dilshan (121 from 195 balls with 13 fours and a six) was given out lbw to a Junaid Khan delivery which swung in late from round the sticks to trap him infront of off. With that a massive stand of 225 runs for the second wicket came to an end. Junaid struck again very soon when a nervy Mahela Jayawardene (0) padded up to his inswinger bowled from round the sticks. Although Mahela deserved to be given out for his misjudgment, replays showed that the ball would have carried over the top of the off stump.
Spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman took a wicket each before the close of play to put Sri Lanka under some pressure. First Saeed Ajmal produced a lovely flat delivery from round the sticks which straightened to hit the pad of Thilan Samaraweera (0 from 18 balls) in line of middle for an lbw. And in the final over of the day, Abdur Rehman produced a perfect arm ball to have night watchman Suraj Randiv (5 from 27 balls) lbw. Sangakkara survived the mini collapse though in which Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 42 runs in 15.4 overs.
Tea on Day 4: The overnight pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara continued to defy Pakistan taking Sri Lanka safely through to 178 for 1 in 56 overs. Play started only at 2:30 PM after the scheduled lunch break because of rain. The post lunch session was of just an hour duration in which Dilshan moved to 85* (from 166 balls with 9 fours) while Kumar Sangakkara eased to 90* (from 158 balls with 8 fours).
The pitch seems to be taking some turn with Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal getting the ball to grip every now and then.
Lunch on Day 4: Sri Lanka batted out the crucial morning session of Day 4 safely without losing a single wicket and thus ensuring that the match is headed towards a meaningless stalemate. The overnight pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan (60* from 112 balls with 9 fours) and Kumar Sangakakra (72* from 110 balls with 8 fours) batted out the 24 overs that were possible following a 10:15 AM start at the SSC in Colombo.
Sri Lanka ended the first session at 135 for 1 in 39 overs in what is only their first innings despite this being the penultimate day of the Test Match.
Build Up to Day 4: Conditions at the SSC Ground in Colombo on Day 4 are overcast with rain once again expected to disrupt play. Sri Lanka will have to bat well under heavy conditions to defy the Pakistanis. The pitch seems to be having a couple of damp spots with a bit of water leaking beneath the covers.
Play on Day 4 as a result will be delayed and we will not see it starting at 9:45 AM local. Infact, the report is that the Umpires are not happy with the pitch and also the outfield. With two days of heavy rain, the outfield has taken a beating despite the good draining system in the SSC.
For the record, Sri Lanka will resume Day 4 as and when it start at 70 for 1 in 15 overs with a first innings deficit of 481 runs. An official update says that play is scheduled to start at 10:15 AM local. However, there is huge black cloud hovering over the top of the ground.