Shafique century puts Pakistan on the brink of famous win in Galle Test

Visitors need 120 more runs with seven wickets in hand to clinch opening match

Pakistan’s Abdullah Shafique celebrates after scoring a century on the fourth day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. AFP
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Abdullah Shafique extended his prolific start to Test cricket as he smashed his second ton to put Pakistan on course for a stunning chase in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Tuesday.

Shafique was batting in 112 as Pakistan finished on 222-3, needing 120 more runs to grab the lead in the two-Test series.

Sri Lanka appeared to have the upper hand in the contest after they posted 337 in their second innings, setting Pakistan a daunting target of 342. However, Shafique teamed with Imam-ul-Haq (35) in an opening stand of 87 and later raised 101 with captain Babar Azam (55) in a markedly improved batting display after they were bundled out for 218 in the first innings.

Shafique's unbeaten 112 contained five fours and a six. Mohammad Rizwan was batting with him on seven at the other end. Shafique has now scored 672 runs in six Tests, which is the most by a Pakistan batsman.

However, Shafique and Imam did not look convincing when Pakistan began their chase. Imam was dropped at cover and had an lbw decision against him reversed, while Shafique survived a strong leg-before appeal.

Imam's innings ended in a bizarre manner when he let go a ball from spinner Ramesh Mendis but lifted his back foot for a moment, allowing Niroshan Dickwella to effect a quick stumping.

Sri Lanka's Prabath Jayasuriya celebrates after taking the wicket of Pakistan captain Babar Azam. AFP

"He is one of the best players, so he provided good support while batting and guided me all along on how to play," Shafique said of captain Azam.

"So was a not a good thing when he got out but now the responsibility lies on me."

"We have just one plan in mind and that is to go after [spinner Prabath] Jayasuriya," Shafique added.

"He has done well in the first innings and if we figure him out well here then we have a pretty good chance of batting well against them."

Jayasuriya picked up five wickets in the first innings and two in the second.

Sri Lanka's spin coach Piyal Wijetunga was perplexed by the lack of assistance.

"All of a sudden the wicket went flat... still we kept them under three runs and we did a marvelous job on that track," he said.

"We are still in the game. If we grab two wickets in the morning session we have a great chance of winning this game."

The highest successful run chase in Galle is 268 and Pakistan went about achieving the unlikely showing determination and skill on a pitch that slowed down and lacked bounce.

The series is being played against the backdrop of an economic and political crisis engulfing Sri Lanka. The second Test, scheduled to start on Sunday, was switched from Colombo to Galle because Sri Lanka Cricket decided not to take any chances with potential political unrest in the capital.

The venue switch was confirmed on Monday around the time Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency. He became acting President last week after Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled abroad and resigned after months-long mass protests over the country’s economic collapse.

Updated: July 19, 2022, 3:56 PM