Azhar Ali hit a superb century as Pakistan notched a thrilling five-wicket victory against Sri Lanka by scoring a rapid 302-5 in the third Test on Monday to level the series 1-1. Ali blazed 103 off 137 balls with six fours and captain Misbah-ul-Haq remained unbeaten on 68 off 72 balls as Pakistan romped home with nine balls remaining on the last day for its second best run chase in test matches. In Pakistan’s only other successful run chase of more than 300 runs, it defeated Australia by one wicket in 1994 in Karachi while chasing 314 runs.
Ali shredded Sri Lanka’s bowlers and set up the chase with a run-a-ball 89 for the fourth wicket stand with Sarfraz Ahmed (48) before putting on a match-winning 109 off 119 balls with Misbah. Earlier, Prasanna Jayawardene made an aggressive 49 before Sri Lanka was bowled out for 214 for an overall lead of 301 and left Pakistan with 59 overs to get victory.
Sri Lanka won the second Test by nine wickets after the first Test was drawn. Pakistan needed 195 in the last 35 overs after Suranga Lakmal (3-79) had removed openers and reduced Pakistan to 107 for 3 by tea. Ahmed justified his promotion ahead of Misbah and turned the tide in favor of Pakistan by not even sparing ace spinner Rangana Herath (0-100) on a very flat wicket.
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Ahmed departed in the 37th over when he gloved a legside catch off Shaminda Eranga but Misbah continued to push the accelerator as Sri Lanka’s bowlers had no answer to stop the Pakistan batsmen from scoring at a brisk pace. Ali raised his century off 133 balls but edged Lakmal under fading light with Pakistan needing only seven runs for victory as Misbah hit the winning run in the next over off Eranga.
Earlier, Lakmal cut short Ahmed Shehzad and Khurram Manzoor’s brisk starts of 21 runs each and captain Angelo Mathews got rid of Younis Khan (29) to restrict Pakistan by tea. Khan added 49 runs with Ali, but in search of quick runs he pulled Mathews straight to Kumar Sangakkara at short mid-wicket.
Resuming at the overnight score of 133 for 5 on the last day, Sri Lanka’s tailenders frustrated Pakistan before the second innings eventually ended on 214 at lunch on the last day.
It gave Sri Lanka a lead of 301 runs after Pakistan conceded an 87-run first innings lead. Jayawardene hit six fours and added 62 runs with Mathews (31) before he was caught close to the wicket by Ali off Saeed Ajmal (3-53). Mathews had not added to his overnight score of 14 when he survived an lbw appeal against Mohammad Talha (3-65) as Pakistan’s luck seemed to have run out.
Jayawardene made Sri Lanka’s intentions clear from the outset by scoring at a brisk pace as he added 56 runs in the first hour with Mathews. Left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman (4-56) struck off successive deliveries to dismiss Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath, but Eranga successfully defended the hat trick ball.
Herath got a golden pair in the match when he was caught by Younis Khan in the slips without scoring after the left-hander was also out for first ball in Sri Lanka’s first innings of 428-9 declared. Sri Lanka’s last wicket pair frustrated Pakistan for nearly five overs before Ajmal finally wrapped up the innings when Eranga top-edged a cut to Rehman at point.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 428/9d & 214 (P Jayawardene 49, M Jayawardene 46, A Rehman 4/56, S Ajmal 3/53) ; Pakistan 341 & 302/5 in 57.3 overs (A Ali 103, M ul Haq 68, S Lakmal 3/79)