The second Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo ended in a stalemate, despite a spirited attempt by the visitors to force a result. In the end, the hours lost to rain proved decisive, and Sri Lanka, set a 261-run target to win off 37 overs on the last evening, ended on 86 for two when play was called off.
Starting the fifth day on 278 for five, still adrift of the follow-on mark by 74 runs, Sri Lanka needed Kumar Sangakkara, unbeaten overnight on 144, to take the team to safety. Sangakkara did that, and more, and in Angelo Mathews' company, took Sri Lanka to 370. The duo played with caution, taking singles and playing the rare aggressive stroke, till the follow-on mark was breached.
The pitch didn't help much, but Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, might have missed a trick in bowling Junaid Khan, the star of the fourth evening, and Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan's No. 1 spinner, from ends opposite to the ones they operated from on Tuesday when they rattled the Sri Lankans.
Once the follow-on mark was crossed, both batsmen used the long handle to good effect. Mathews lofted Abdur Rehman over extra-cover for a majestic six, and then Sangakkara followed suit with a straight-hit off Ajmal. Sangakkara and Mathews played till lunch, and by then, any chance of a result had been nullified.
Junaid, however, like he did on the fourth day, created a flutter immediately after lunch. He struck in his first over from the press box end, getting Mathews to edge one to Adnan Akmal, the wicketkeeper, when on a personal score of 47. The wicket led to a collapse of sorts, as Sri Lanka lost their last five wickets within 21 runs.
Sangakkara fell agonisingly short of a double hundred again when he flicked Rehman straight into the hands of Taufeeq Umar at square-leg. Sangakkara had been left stranded on 199 in the first Test, while this time, with his partners disappearing fast, an injudicious stroke saw him perish.
Sri Lanka's first innings ended on 391, 160 behind Pakistan's first innings score of 551 for six declared.
The Pakistan batsmen did their best to get a result from the match, however unlikely it might have been. Mohammad Hafeez and Umar, the opening batsmen, got off to aggressive starts. Hafeez fell first, for 21, with Pakistan on 51 in the 11th over. Rehman, the spinner, was sent in to do a spot of pinch-hitting, and he slammed three sixes and three fours in an entertaining 36 from 22 balls. Umar remained unbeaten on 42 as Misbah declared one over after tea, leaving Sri Lanka with 261 to get in just under a session.
It was an improbable target, but with Tillakaratne Dilshan in an aggressive frame of mind, it seemed as if Sri Lanka would make a dash for the target. After Dilshan's dismissal for 28, Sangakkara too hit a few aggressive strokes to reach an unbeaten 24 from 22 balls. In the end though, the hosts shut shop, reaching 86 for two from 22 overs when the umpires called off play with one hour remaining on the clock.
Sri Lanka lead the three-Test series 1-0 after winning the first Test in Galle by 209 runs. The third Test will start in Pallekele on July 8.