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GALLE: Sri Lanka is in total command of the first Test after an impressive batting display. Dinesh Chandimal has once again been their savior for the team, while Mohammad Nawaz starred for Pakistan with his maiden five-wicket haul on the third day of the opening Test at Galle.
Sri Lanka resumed their batting innings from the overnight score of 36/1 and lost the nightwatchman Kasun Rajitha earlier in the day. The pair of Oshada Fernando and Kusal Mendis consolidated for the hosts, with the former being more proactive at the crease while Mendis struggled to get going.
The 91-run stand for the third wicket was broken when Fernando was dismissed by Yasir Shah for a well-made 64. After the dismissal of Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis, Pakistan looked to run through the lower-order batters. But Dinesh Chandimal, fresh off the heroics in the previous encounter against Australia, once again stood in the way of the Pakistani bowlers.
Mohammad Nawaz wheeled his way to a maiden five-wicket haul, and Yasir Shah produced some spectacular legbreaks, but Pakistan’s situation in this match is looking increasingly dire. On a surface taking substantial turn, they are now 333 runs behind, with one opposition wicket still to get. The highest successful chase in Galle is 268; the highest fourth-innings score of any description is 300.
Half-centuries from Fernando, Kusal, and Chandimal tied Sri Lanka’s innings together, and it was the morning’s third-wicket stand that set Sri Lanka up for a strong batting day. At this stage, Sri Lanka were more or less batting normally, Fernando coming down the track to create single options either side of the pitch, while Mendis played more on his back foot to take toll of the shorter deliveries, which came too often from the Pakistan spinners.
There were occasional big shots before lunch, such as when Fernando ran down the track and launched Yasir into the sightscreen roughly midway through the session. But largely, the batters were happy to wait for the bowlers to err, which they did, rarely managing to build pressure, as they gave up runs to Kusal’s sweep, or Fernando’s cuts. Fernando got to his half-century towards the end of the first session, but was out soon after the break, edging Nawaz to slip.
Pakistan will be ruing a few missed chances, especially the drop of Chandimal on 68 by Hasan Ali on his own bowling. The lead is already looking daunting, and the pitch is starting to turn square, which does not bode well for the visitors. They will hope to finish the Sri Lankan innings early on the fourth day.