Sangakkara ton frustrates Pak

COLOMBO: Kumar Sangakkara hit an unbeaten century to steer Sri Lanka to a draw in the final Test against Pakistan here on Friday and win his first series as captain.

The left-hander made 130 not out as Sri Lanka, faced with a world record target of 492, defied the Pakistani bowlers to finish with 391-4 on the fifth day at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Rock solid Sangakarra’s 19th Test century featured a fourth-wicket stand of 122 with Thilan Samaraweera (73) and 114 for the unbroken fifth with Angelo Mathews (64 not out).

Sri Lanka clinched the series 2-0, their first at home against Pakistan after five unsuccessful attempts, and provided Sangakkara with a winning start as captain after he took over from Mahela Jayawardene in April. Sangakkara hung on for nearly seven hours on a placid pitch to frustrate Pakistan’s bid to record a face-saving win ahead of the five-match one-day series starting at Dambulla on July 30.

No team has achieved this high a target in the fourth innings to win a Test match. The highest successful chase so far is 418-7 by the West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2003.

The two teams went into the last session of the match with Sri Lanka needing 154 runs from 38 overs for a record-breaking win and Pakistan requiring six wickets. The final session provided dull cricket from both sides as the batsmen plodded along and the bowlers set defensive fields to ensure the run-rate did not pick up. Play was finally called off when 15 overs remained with Sri Lanka needing a further 101 runs.

Sangakkara said he was delighted to win the series despite the absence of

world bowling record

holder Muttiah Muralitharan due to a knee injury. “To win without Murali was

really very special,” he said. “We missed Murali really badly, but it showed the character of the young guys who came in. They were really hungry for success.”

Sangakkara said he decided against chasing the record target because of the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan,

who sustained a broken

finger while keeping wicket and then had a cut above the left eyebrow while batting earlier in the match. “If Dilshan was fit and we had a few more runs before tea, we would have considered going for a win, but I think we made the right decision in the end,” he said.

Pakistan captain Younus Khan said the improved display in the final Test gave his team hope for the one-day series. “We did not bat well in the first two Tests, but there was a definite improvement in this match,” he said. “We will get better if we play more Test cricket. “The wicket slowed down a bit on the last two days and I really thought Sri Lanka would go for a win after tea today. Sangakkara played very well. We just could not do anything to get him out.”

The Sri Lankan captain was named man of the match, while seamer Nuwan Kulasekera was judged the man of the series for 17 wickets in three Tests. It was the last Test for veteran Sri Lankan seamer Chaminda Vaas, who has quit the five-day game but will still play limited-overs cricket. Vaas finished his 15-year Test career with 355 wickets from 111 matches.

It was the first time in the series that play went into the fifth day after the tourists lost the first Test in four days and the second in three.