Karachi:New captain Younis Khan led the fightback with a patient century as Pakistan reached 296-3 against Sri Lanka on the third day of the first Test on Monday.
Khan kept the experienced Sri Lanka spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis at bay throughout the day in scoring an unbeaten 149 off 282 balls. Misbah-ul-Haq was batting on 20 at stumps.
The Pakistan captain's job is far from over as the home team requires a further 149 runs to avoid the follow on. Sri Lanka declared its first innings at an imposing total of 644-7.
Muralitharan was even given the second new ball in the last session, but Khan swept and drove the star spinner with confidence on a flat batting wicket. Khan hit 17 boundaries during his defiant six hours 11 minutes stay at the wicket.
Khan was ably supported by former captain Shoaib Malik, who hit 56, in adding 149 runs for the third wicket stand in three and a half hours.
Both showed no signs of Test match rustiness, having last played against India at Bangalore in Dec. 2007.
Malik was finally run out shortly after completing his half century off 168 balls that included seven fours when Muralitharan's direct throw hit the non-striker's end from mid-off.
Sri Lanka could have got the breakthrough in the afternoon when Khan was on 92, but Tillakaratne Dilshan was unable to hold onto a difficult diving catch to his left at mid-wicket.
Khan completed his century when he pushed a ball from paceman Dilhara Fernando to third man and ran for two runs in the last over of before tea.
In the first session, Khan on 23 survived an lbw decision when Australian umpire Simon Taufel turned down a confident appeal by Ajantha Mendis.
Khan negated the spin threat of Muralitharan and also that of unorthodox spinner Mendis as he waited patiently for the loose deliveries to play his attacking shots.
Mendis (1-78) brought the lone success in the first session when he had rookie batsman Khurram Manzoor (27) caught behind off a straight delivery that induced a big outside edge.
Khan and Manzoor had negotiated the first hour with some cautious batting and took the score to 78-1 after Pakistan resumed at the overnight total of 44-1.
Muralitharan (1-92), who claimed the wicket of Salman Butt late on the second day, bowled 31 overs on the third day and even switched bowling ends without success.
Both Khan and Malik looked at ease when facing cricket's highest Test wicket-taker on a pitch which still looks firm for batting.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera both scored double centuries Sunday and combined for a record-breaking 437-run partnership for the fourth wicket in the visitors' highest ever total in an innings against Pakistan.