Sri Lanka close to victory

Colombo, March 29:

Sri Lanka, thrust by an immense 185 from Kumar Sangakkara and a twirling late afternoon special from Muttiah Muralitharan, edged closer to a victory against Pakistan here on Wednesday. Sangakkara’s ninth Test hundred had earlier seen Sri Lanka declare at 448 for 5, setting Pakistan a target of 458 runs. Having tiptoed to 59 without loss, Muralitharan snapped up two quick wickets to leave Pakistan at 89/2 at the close of the fourth day.

The enormity of Pakistan’s task was mostly the result of Sangakkara’s hundred. The first two balls of the day were effortlessly thwacked straight to cover for no run, evidence of what was to come. Pakistan’s opening bowlers carried the flatness of souls waiting for a new ball though when it came, Sangakkara, rather than the bowlers, was revitalised.

The real blitz arrived after lunch as did Sangakkara’s love for tall scores which with five 150-plus scores now is a useful habit. As Pakistan meandered, Sangakkara brought up his 150; his century had come in 209 balls and he needed only 71 more for the next 50. Shoaib Malik (31) and Faisal Iqbal (9) was unbeaten at the crease. Muralitharan dismissed both Imran Farhat (34) and Younis Khan (8).