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Sri Lanka seize control of first test

Written by: Staff
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Mar 28 (Reuters) Sri Lanka seized control of the first test against Pakistan after a career-best bowling performance from Farveez Maharoof was followed by a powerful top-order batting display today.

Pakistan grabbed the initiative yesterday after bowling out Sri Lanka for 185 but the hosts struck back on day three, skittling out Pakistan for 176 in 54.4 overs and then responding strongly to finish on 242 for two.

By the close, Sri Lanka's lead was already a potentially match-winning 251 with Kumar Sangakkara (77) and Mahela Jayawardene (69), Sri Lanka's premier batsmen, still at the crease.

Maharoof sparked Sri Lanka's revival in the morning, claiming the wickets of Inzamam-ul-Haq (31) and Abdul Razzaq (eight) in the first half hour to finish with career-best figures of four for 52 from 15 overs.

Maharoof was supported by off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who polished off the lower order during an unbroken two-hour spell, taking three for 41 from 17.4 overs.

Opener Upul Tharanga then consolidated Sri Lanka's initiative with a fine 72 from 133 balls, adding 53 with Sanath Jayasuriya (13) and another 74 with Sangakkara during a long hot afternoon.

Sri Lanka's openers closed the first session on 37 without loss.

Pace bowler Mohammed Asif eventually broke through during an aggressive post-lunch spell in which he targeted Jayasuriya with several short balls and eventually had him caught behind.

But the 21-year-old Tharanga cracked 12 boundaries during an aggressive innings that allowed Sangakkara to play a sheet anchor role at the other end.

When Tharanga was brilliantly caught at mid-on after a mistimed drive, Jayawardene maintained the momentum with a glorious half century that included 10 fours and a six.

Sangakkara continued to graft hard for his runs, refusing to take unnecessary risks during a four-hour stay at the crease, while Jayawardene raised the tempo during an unbroken 115-run third wicket stand.

Sri Lanka's comeback started early, sparked by a beautiful leg cutter from Maharoof that Inzamam-ul-Haq edged straight to wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara.

Maharoof then bowled Abdul Razzaq with another fine delivery that nipped back off the seam.

Muralitharan deceived Shahid Afridi (13) with a quicker off break that knocked back his off stump and trapped Umar Gul (two) lbw after the right-hander offering no stroke.

Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal (27) resisted for over an hour before a freakish reflex catch at short leg off a full-blooded sweep from Tharanga ended the innings.

Reuters DH DB1832

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