PALLEKELE: Thisara Perera's brisk half century for Sri Lanka left Pakistan struggling to catch the home side after three days of the third and final Test today.
Opening batsman Tharanga Paranavitana (75) and Thilan Samaraweera (73) powered Sri Lanka to match Pakistan's first-innings score, then Perera's late whacks lifted their total to 337 all out, a lead of 111. In the half hour to stumps, Pakistan lost Taufeeq Umar (four) and was 27-1, trailing by 84 and needing a win to tie the series.
Paranavitana and Samaraweera shared a fourth-wicket stand of 143 before Perera's onslaught when Pakistan took the second new ball after tea. Sri Lanka were ahead by just four runs when Perera, batting at No 8, was joined by Kulasekera (33). The pair shared a Sri Lanka-record 84 runs for the eighth wicket against Pakistan.
Perera rode some luck as he was dropped on 11 and 22 in scoring 75 off 86 balls with four boundaries and three sixes. Perera smashed Gul for two boundaries and a six in one over before hoisting offspinner Saeed Ajmal (3-66) for two sixes. Pakistan left-arm seamer Junaid Khan (5-70) was rewarded for his untiring effort with a five-wicket haul when he bowled Perera.
Earlier, after the second day's play was washed out, Paranavitana and Samaraweera dug in well in the first session and guided their team to 142 after resuming at 44-3. Khan, who took two late wickets on the first day in the space of four balls, and Gul tested Paranavitana and Samaraweera early on before the batsmen settled in.
Paranavitana was struck on the helmet by Mohammad Sami's delivery, but it did not shake the confidence of the left-handed opener as he raised his half century with a cover drive boundary off seamer Younis Khan. Samaraweera got a lucky escape just after the break when Younis Khan dropped a straightforward catch in the second slip off Gul as the batsman attempted to drive.
Samaraweera added salt in the wounds of Gul when he drove the seamer to the cover boundary in the next over to complete his 50. The players left the field for 20 minutes because of rain and the little break favoured Pakistan when play resumed.
Ajmal bowled round the wicket and had Samaraweera leg before wicket off a delivery that didn't spin much. Samaraweera hit nine fours in his 160-ball knock. Khan's superb seam and swing bowling saw Angelo Mathews giving a sharp catch to Asad Shafiq in the gully before Paranavitana chopped Ajmal back onto his stumps. Paranavitana, who struggled in the first two Tests and was on the verge of being dropped from the side, hit eight fours and faced 188 balls.
Sri Lanka won the first Test by 209 runs at Galle before the second Test ended in a draw at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.