Brilliant centuries from the past and future of Pakistan cricket -- Younis Khan and Shan Masood put Pakistan in an eminently capable position of winning the third Test at Pallekele, and in the process, clinching the Test series as well. After Angelo Mathews played a captain's knock for Sri Lanka to help them set an improbable target of 377, Pakistan found themselves in deep trouble at 13 for 2. However, Masood and Younis added an unbeaten 217 for the third wicket to put Pakistan in a position of great strength. The record alliance left them needing 147 to win on the final day. Just like the special batting, they are equally capable to collapsing as well.
At one stage it seemed that Mathews would be the hero of the day after his hard-earned fifth Test ton. But, the story of the day clearly turned out to be about the fight back from Masood and Younis. They had everything going against them. Pakistan were chasing a huge score and, it is a fact that they are extremely poor chasers. To top it, Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali fell early. The Sri Lankan bowlers were on the top of their game, and must have even harboured hopes of a four-day win. No one would have been surprised to see Pakistan capitulating to 150 all out. But, this wasn't to be that kind of day.
Masood had a jittery start, understandably since he is not yet experienced at the international stage. But, the arrival of Younis helped him a lot. The middle-order bat, who had a poor 100th Test, was in imperious form on Monday, and hardly put a foot wrong. He get behind the line of most deliveries, and played them with ease. In the company of the experienced Younis, Masood also grew in confidence. Even as he continued to struggle against the short ball, he was impressive wit the drives.
It was the with the introduction of Tharindu Kaushal that Masood really came into his own. The off-spinner bowled a number of loose deliveries, and Masood was confident enough to step out and hit him for boundaries. Pakistan progressed to tea 2 down for 99. In the last session, both Younis and Masood became a bit more aggressive as the bowlers got tired. They easily dealt with the fast bowlers, who were giving away easy runs. Masood reached his hundred by smashing Kaushal down the ground for a six while Younis got there by sweeping one in the last over of the day.
Earlier, Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal continued their overnight partnership. They were aggressive, looking for quick runs. Chandimal eventually fell for 67, leg before and Imran Khan went on to get the tail easily, completing his maiden five-wicket haul. Mathews went on to complete his ton, before being the last man out, but not before he had done his job. Or at least he thought so.
--By A Cricket Correspondent