Abu Dhabi: Mohammad Hafeez made the most of his good batting form, and a benign pitch, to score a fluent half-century that helped Pakistan earn a comfortable draw in Abu Dhabi after being set a target of 302 from 67 overs. His 101-run stand with Ahmed Shehzad, in 31 overs, effectively closed the door on Sri Lanka after Suranga Lakmal had provided an early breakthrough. Hafeez was unbeaten on 80 when the teams decided to shake hands, right at the start of the mandatory overs.
Hafeez may have missed out in the first innings after making a confident start, but he was in no mood to cede advantage to the bowlers here. His first boundary was a neat straight drive through mid-off off Lakmal. His second was even better – as Rangana Herath tempted him with a flighted delivery, he responded by stepping out and caressing it through covers. No violence, just placement.
That was also an early statement from the batsman against Sri Lanka’s best bowler. Herath, afterall, had been instrumental in sparking a Pakistan collapse while chasing 168 in Galle in 2009. The pitch in Abu Dhabi, though, neutralised the Herath threat, with the grass keeping the soil bound and ensuring it was still a good surface for batting on the fifth day.
As the initial seam movement disappeared, Hafeez comfortably leaned into his drives, kept the strike rotating and ended his 12-innings long wait for a Test half-century with a couple of boundaries off Sachithra Senanayake. A century was there for the taking and that generated some academic interest with the possibilities of a result fading, but it was not to be.
Hafeez’s positivity had an effect on Shehzad, the debutant, too. Shehzad had been circumspect in the first few overs, then dropped the anchor while Hafeez made all the moves, before opening up against Angelo Mathews with an on-the-up drive through the covers. He registered his first half-century off the last ball of the second session, but was trapped lbw by Herath early in the last session. There were no surprises thereafter as Younis Khan and Hafeez saw off the last few overs with ease.
Herath bowled 21 of the 52 overs by Sri Lanka but returned with just one wicket, highlighting the plight of bowlers on a strange pitch that refused to respond. His ineffectiveness mirrored Saeed Ajmal’s, who had gone wicketless in 49 second-innings overs, as only three wickets went down in the last two days.
With the batsmen appearing in no trouble whatsoever, Sri Lanka would have wondered about the timing of their declaration. The focus on the fifth morning was on what approach Sri Lanka would take. They were leading by 241 at the start of the day and with five wickets in hand, were expected to ramp up the rate to give their bowlers enough time to bowl Pakistan out. However, Angelo Mathews and Prasanna Jayawardene didn’t show any urgency for runs and quietly nibbled away at time, scoring at a rate of less than three – only 60 came in 20.3 overs.
Pakistan, who have only once chased down more than 300, weren’t in a rush either. The third new ball was available after 12 overs in the morning session but Misbah-ul-Haq chose to hold it back denying the batsmen a chance to go after the harder ball.
Prasanna Jayawardene marked his return to Test cricket after a year-long gap with his fifth Test half-century. He pulled the first ball he faced from Bilawal Bhatti – a gentle bouncer – to the fine-leg boundary, also registering the century of the partnership. That was his only four of the morning as he scored just 15 runs in 62 balls until the declaration.
Mathews’ first scoring shot was a pull as well, an unconvincing one off Junaid Khan, and he was lucky that the top-edge landed short of the deep square leg fielder. But he followed it up with two boundaries with the same shot off Bhatti, his lesser pace not quite posing the same challenge as Junaid’s. Mathews scored another brace of fours through fine leg in Junaid’s last over of his spell, but then laboured to his 150, only managing to find the boundary two more times. Mathews, despite his reluctance to set the pace, did ensure a remarkable turnaround for Sri Lanka after they had conceded a 179-run first-innings lead.