Lunch Pakistan 340 for 8 (Azhar Ali 85, Masood 59, Herath 4-59) trail Sri Lanka 419 by 79 runs
Following the third day’s three sessions of torpor, Rangana Herath and Sri Lanka attempted to shake the Abu Dhabi Test gently awake, claiming four wickets before lunch on day four to give themselves a shot at a first-innings lead. The draw still appears a likely result, but Tests between Pakistan and Sri Lanka have in the recent past occasionally shot to conclusions over the final four sessions.
Thanks to Herath’s two wickets, and two further scalps for Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka need only two more first innings wickets. If they dismiss Pakistan for fewer than 79 further runs, Sri Lanka will secure their first first-innings lead in six Tests.
Of the four Pakistan victims, Azhar Ali will be most livid with himself. Having begun the day on 74 off he had unhurriedly collected 11 more runs on day four, when attempting to flick Herath to the legside for perhaps a couple, he was undone by Herath’s lack of pace. Azhar managed only to send it aerially to the left of short-midwicket, where substitute fielder Sadeera Samarawickrama completed an outstanding diving catch inches from the ground. Still, at 294 for 5, and with two specialist batsmen at the crease, Pakistan were still comfortable, and appeared more than capable of taking a first-innings lead.
Azhar’s dismissal brought captain Sarfraz Ahmed to the crease, and perhaps for the first time in the innings, a batsman began to play with real ambition. The ninth ball he faced, from Dilruwan Perera, Sarfraz blasted past mid off. The next delivery was launched over long on. Although his partner, Haris Sohail, continued to play conservatively, Sarfraz prodded at the flagging scoring rate. That aggressive impulse, sadly, would soon be his downfall. Batting on 18 off 20 balls, Sarfraz attempted to pull a Lakmal delivery that moved in off the seam, and only managed to get an under-edge to the ball, to send it clattering into the stumps. This was the third time in the match a batsman has been dismissed in that fashion.
Lakmal would dismiss Mohammad Amir during the same spell, straightening the ball to pin him in front of off stump. Bowling the last over of the morning, Herath then sent a beautifully flighted delivery to Yasir Shah, whose attempts to defend it wound up only sending it to slip, who completed a sharp, low take. Pakistan had at one stage been cruising at 266 for 3, but now having lost five wickets for 74 runs, have seen the opposition edge ahead again.