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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 1st Test 2023

Lunch Pakistan 313 for 6 (Shakeel 119*, Agha 83, Noman 13*, Jayasuriya 3-110, Ramesh 2-93) lead Sri Lanka 312 (Dhananjaya 122, Mathews 64, Abrar 3-68, Afridi 3-86, Naseem 3-90) by one run

Sri Lanka pulled back the scoring rate in the last hour of the morning session, but Pakistan remained in the ascendancy as Saud Shakeel, with a second Test century in the bag, transformed the overnight deficit of 91 to a one-run lead. At the break, Shakeel was unbeaten on 119 with Noman Ali for company on 13.
Things might have been worse for Sri Lanka had Agha Salman not gifted his wicket away at the tail end of a dominant first hour, something which led to the more subdued final hour. Overnight rain and a wet outfield meant the start of play was delayed by an hour, but Shakeel and Agha did their best to make up for any lost time, taking the attack to the Sri Lankan bowlers from the get-go.

Despite this being a third-day track in Galle, the persistent rain had meant that any turn on offer was of the slow variety. But such was the intent shown by Shakeel and Agha, you suspect even more prodigious turn would have been dealt with in similar manner.

Of the two, Shakeel was the more proactive, unafraid to use his feet be it to the seamers or spinners. Against Kasun Rajitha he frequently walked down the track, outside the line of off stump, to work the ball either side of the wicket. Against Prabath Jayasuriya, he used the depth of the crease to great effect to guide the ball behind square on either side; otherwise, his sound defensive technique ensured that anything fuller was kept out with ease.

Agha, at the other end, while less adventurous with the use of his feet, nevertheless managed to rotate strike with equal ease. He also found boundaries when needed, notably a pair off Rajitha – the first a late cut between gully and slip, and then a drive on the up through the covers.

It was only a moment of brief hubris that gave Sri Lanka their sole breakthrough, with Agha charging Ramesh Mendis, only for the offspinner to rip one through bat and pad after the batter had failed to reach the pitch of the delivery. Sadeera Samarawickrama behind the stumps completed a routine stumping.

The partnership between Agha and Shakeel yielded 177 runs, scored at 4.96 runs per over. Since the fall of Agha’s wicket, Pakistan have scored at a considerably slower 2.5 per over.

Sri Lanka ought to have got one more before the break, but failed to review a lbw call against Noman that was given not out, but was shown to be crashing into leg. They reviewed one an over later – perhaps in anger after the big screen showed the previous missed opportunity – but this one had Noman gloving it. This meant that Sri Lanka will now have to search for the remaining Pakistan wickets without the luxury of DRS at their disposal.

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