Colombo: The star of the fourth day of the ongoing Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo was definitely Junaid Khan, the young Pakistan left-arm seamer.
It wasn't, however, easy for Junaid, or the rest of Pakistan bowlers, on a day when there were frustrating rain delays as well as determined knocks from Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan centurions. "It is hard to bowl for long hours in such heat, but once you get a wicket and you see the ball reversing, it is all about rhythm," said Junaid, at the end of the day's play. "Once I have rhythm, I like bowling long spells."
Junaid's bowling, especially to the right-handers, was exemplary, and he credited Wasim Akram, the legendary Pakistani left-arm seamer, for his success. Not just the tips that Akram handed down during past interactions, but also the videos of Akram's bowling that Junaid has seen over the years. "I am a great fan of Wasim bhai, and he has worked with me as well. Talking to him and watching him swing the old ball, and use the around-the-wicket angle, like in the 1992 final, has helped me a lot," said Junaid.
Junaid was perceived to be a bit off-colour with the new ball in the two Tests played so far, but impressed with the old ball both in the Galle Test and now at the SSC. "I created chances with the new ball, but sometimes it's just your luck as a bowler," said Junaid. "Also I think generally most Pakistan bowlers are more comfortable bowling with the old ball as they know how to take advantage of a reversing ball."
A draw appears the likeliest result, with four days gone and the second innings still in progress. Junaid, however, was optimistic about dismissing Sri Lanka soon on the last day, and adding the scalp of Sangakkara, unbeaten on 144, to his list. Sangakkara, though, expressed confidence that the follow-on – still 74 runs away – would be avoided. "If we can avoid the follow-on and play out a session, I think we would have done enough to save the Test match. Avoiding the follow-on will be our first target," said Sangakkara.
Sangakkara continued his good form in the series with another fine unbeaten effort, reaching 30 Test centuries, and going past Sir Donald Bradman's mark, in the process. "It is a great achievement, I think 30 centuries is a good solid number for a batsman, and is something I had set myself when I started out," said Sangakkara. "I think it's purely because I have played many more Test matches than him (Bradman). If he had played the same amount it would have been very hard for anyone to catch him."