Shan Masood and Younis Khan came together at 13 for 2 in a chase of 377, and responded with the highest fourth-innings partnership ever for Pakistan, leaving the visitors 147 runs adrift of achieving the highest successful chase ever in Sri Lanka.
The duo had to contend with a charged up three-man pace attack running in with a new ball. Masood had to overcome considerable nerves in general in his first Test outside the UAE, and discomfort against the short ball in particular. Their ally was the pitch, having slowed down enough for the ball to lose nearly all its threat along with its shine. Their pressure release was the inexperienced offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, who went for 92 in 20 wicketless overs.
The first ball of Pakistan’s innings had summed up the task that lay ahead, when Dhammika Prasad squared up Masood with a ripper. Suranga Lakmal bettered that testing first over, beating Ahmed Shehzad with one that moved away and then uprooting his off stump with one that came in. Misfortune added to Pakistan’s worries when Azhar Ali nicked behind down the leg side off Prasad in trying to whip a wide one.
The scoreline of 13 for 2 would not have helped Masood’s jittery beginning, but the arrival of Younis did. Younis was eager to move across and solidly got behind the line of deliveries. He was also keen to look for the single. Slowly, Masood started to find some confidence. He was still not comfortable against the shorter lengths but moved forward to drill a few drives down the ground when the seamers overpitched.
The introduction of Kaushal in the 14th over changed the situation. The offspinner could not control his lengths, and repeatedly served up short balls and full tosses. Masood stepped out to lift him for fours, Younis pulled powerfully. By tea, Kaushal had conceded 43 from seven overs and the partnership had grown to 86 in 22.
Younis had been in no trouble till tea; he became almost imperious after the break. He started jumping across and thumping the fast bowlers on the up through the covers. He whipped Prasad through midwicket and cover-drove him for successive fours to march past fifty.
Masood had settled down, and though he was still getting beaten on the cut, he was also working the ball into gaps.
With his fast bowlers flagging, and his offspinner leaking runs, Angelo Mathews tried himself, and almost broke through. Sri Lanka reviewed for leg-before against Masood, on 79, but with replays inconclusive about whether there was an inside edge, the third umpire had to go with the on-field call.
Sri Lanka’s spread-out fields helped Masood and Younis to keep rotating the strike. Masood reached his maiden Test hundred stepping out and lifting Kaushal for a straight six. Younis never allowed the offspinner to settle, trying the reverse sweep now and then, and made it 30 Test centuries with a swept four in the last over of the day. He also became the first man to make five fourth-innings hundreds.
2015 Kashmir Despatch