An adventurous ninth-wicket stand made a refreshing change from two sessions of slow scoring as Sri Lanka made their way to 413 against Pakistan on the second day in Sharjah. The fickleness of Test cricket was on display as Sri Lanka lost four wickets in just over an hour's play to slip from a robust 300 for 3 before Rangana Herath's swing-at-everything cameo pushed them past 400.
The conditions had provided little for the bowlers in the first day, but there was considerably more spin on offer on Friday and Umar Gul dramatically reverse-swung the old ball, to make things difficult for the batsmen.
Another day of run-accumulation seemingly beckoned for Sri Lanka but none of the established middle-order batsmen provided the impetus in the morning. Mahela Jayawardene wasn't at his fluent best before becoming the latest victim of an umpiring blunder. Jayawardene was given out lbw to a delivery from Junaid Khan that jagged in from short of a length, striking him on the thigh pad. The ball was going to head over the stumps, but the usually accurate Simon Taufel disagreed, much to Pakistan's relief.
Sangakkara remained his unflustered self, and though he too couldn't force the pace there weren't too many anxious moments either. His cap became sweat-stained as he soldiered on in an innings that spanned more than eight hours. He was beaten wafting outside off on successive deliveries from Umar Gul in the 97th over, after which he admonished himself for losing concentration. There were several effortless punches through cover but his only boundary of the day was a powerful lofted off-drive off Saeed Ajmal.
Angelo Mathews also played a slow-and-steady innings, but he and Sangakkara hauled Sri Lanka to 300 an over before lunch. Mathews though was done in by an Abdur Rehman delivery that drifted in before spinning away and taking the edge.
After lunch, Pakistan got the big wicket of Sangakkara, as Saeed Ajmal got a shortish ball to turn sharply away, inducing a top-edge that gave Younis Khan his third catch of the innings. That left only the newcomers Kaushal Silva and Kosala Kulasekara as the recognised batsmen remaining, with the Pakistan spinners posing plenty of questions with their variations. It was the big offbreak that accounted for Kulasekara as well, trapping him lbw.
With four men prowling around the bat, Silva needed 17 nervy deliveries to get off the mark, but he gritted his way through the entire session for an unbeaten 21. Like most batsmen, he too had trouble with Ajmal's doosra, surviving on 5 when a nick was put down by Adnan Akmal. It was mostly a subdued innings, except for a forceful pull off Gul for four. Dhammika Prasad also kept the Pakistan bowling at bay, till the final over before tea when he feathered Junaid Khan to the keeper.
Herath didn't adopt the safety-first approach of the rest. Early in his innings, he slapped Junaid past a lazy Mohammad Hafeez at point, and then slammed the ball over square leg for six. He motored along at nearly a run-a-ball to 34 before Silva top-edged a swipe to short fine leg and last man Chanaka Welegedera was cleaned up by some spectacular reverse-swing from Gul.