Abdullah Shafique celebrates after scoring 150 runs during the match. AFP
Abdullah Shafique scored an unbeaten 160 to lead Pakistan to a record run chase and a four-wicket victory on Wednesday in a series-opening cricket test that went ahead despite a political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
His 408-ball innings contained six boundaries and a six in an innings, although he did get some reprieves.
Shafique was lucky to survive an LBW appeal when he was on four. He was dropped on 135 when Dhananjaya de Silva missed a return catch and again on 151 as Pakistan closed in on the win.
A rain delay after lunch on Day 5 slowed down Pakistan’s push for victory with 11 runs still required, but it really was only a matter of time.
The previous highest successful run chase at Galle was Sri Lanka’s 268 against New Zealand in 2019.
“We knew that the set batsmen had to score big,” Shafique said. “The early part was always going to be tough but once you are set, you can score big runs here.
“It was a great effort. Pretty happy with what we have achieved here.”
Together with overnight batsman Mohammad Rizwan, Shafique added 71 runs for the fourth wicket to help Pakistan inch toward the victory target of 342.
Rizwan eventually fell for 40 when Prabath Jayasuriya trapped him LBW, leaving Pakistan needing less than 70 runs with six wickets in hand.
Sri Lanka also claimed the wicket of Agha Salman (12) in the last over before lunch, when Jayasuriya had him caught behind.
The wicket eased out with a lack of bounce helping the batters as the first test wore on. Sri Lanka didn’t help its cause spreading the field in a bid to stop boundaries and its defensive mindset only helped Pakistan’s batters take singles.
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne regretted not having enough runs in the first innings.
“We won the toss and batted first and we should have scored much more than the 222 we managed,” he said. “There were some soft dismissals and that gave them the advantage.
“But having said that, we did well to set them a target of 342. Anything beyond 300 is big in Galle but apart from Prabath Jayasuriya, rest of the bowling was pretty poor. Disappointed with the way we played, but we will bounce back in the next game.”
As the test was in progress, there was a protest organized just a few hundred meters from the stadium in Galle against the rising cost of living and corruption. The protests in the capital Colombo have been taking place on a larger scale and forced cricket officials to shift the second test, originally scheduled for Colombo, to Galle with a Sunday start.
The first test finished not long after Sri Lankan lawmakers chose six-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as president, defying the risk the vote would re-ignite turmoil among a public outraged by the South Asian country’s dire economic, humanitarian and political crisis.
The vote means Wickremesinghe, prime minister and acting president, will succeed former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and finish the term ending in 2024 that Rajapaksa abandoned by fleeing the country and resigning earlier this month.