Saud hits double ton, puts Pakistan in strong position in first Test against Sri Lanka

Saud Shakeel’s double century placed Pakistan in a commanding position on Day 3 of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium. His knock raised hopes of ending their winless streak of six Test matches against the Lankans. Pakistan’s previous Test victory against Sri Lanka was in 2022 at the same venue. However, Shakeel’s explosive unbeaten 208 allowed the visiting team to edge closer to a win, after securing a lead of 149 runs over the hosts.

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At the end of Day 3, Sri Lanka finished at 14/0, trailing by 135 runs. Nishan Madushka and Dimuth Karunaratne remained unbeaten with scores of 8 (12) and 6 (16), respectively.

Pakistan’s middle-order batsman Shakeel resumed his innings at 69 not out alongside Agha Salman. The pair continued the team’s recovery from a precarious position of 101/5. They were eventually separated when the visitors reached 278. Agha Salman fell for 83, but Shakeel continued to pile up the runs for his team.

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Nauman Ali partnered with the 27-year-old batsman and spent a considerable amount of time on the pitch. However, Ramesh Mendis prevented Shakeel from prolonging his innings. In the 74th over, Mendis dismissed Shakeel for 25 runs, trapping him in front of the stumps.

Shaheen Afridi joined in and immediately showcased his intentions by hitting two boundaries. Unfortunately, his stay at the crease was short-lived with Vishwa Fernando dismissing the tailender. Shaheen attempted to play along the line but missed, resulting in the ball hitting his back pad. He decided to challenge the decision using the DRS, but it went against him. Consequently, Shaheen departed after scoring 9 runs off 14 deliveries.

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Following Shaheen’s dismissal, Shakeel took charge of scoring runs while Naseem Shah displayed great determination in protecting his wicket. Their partnership lasted for nearly 40 overs, with Shah facing 78 deliveries.

Shakeel continued his strategy of accumulating boundaries at regular intervals. He even received a second chance when he attempted a slog-sweep but failed to clear the boundary due to a lack of power. Angelo Mathews had an opportunity to catch the ball comfortably at deep midwicket but failed to seize it.

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As the overs progressed, Pakistan’s score continued to increase at a fast pace. Shakeel reached the milestone of 150 runs in the 87th over. However, controversy arose two balls later when an appeal was made against Shah for a full-length delivery. Shah chose not to offer a shot, and the umpire dismissed the appeal, leaving Sri Lanka without any remaining reviews.

Mendis eventually broke through Shah’s defense, dislodging the bails and revitalising Sri Lanka’s chances in the game. Abrar Ahmed came in as the next batsman but was swiftly dismissed by Mendis, limiting Pakistan’s total to 461.

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Shakeel stood as the last batsman for the Pakistani team, achieving an impressive score of 208*. His double century is the 45th achieved by a Pakistan batsman in Test cricket and only the second in the past seven years. The previous instance was Abid Ali’s unbeaten 215 against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2021. Additionally, Shakeel became only the second Pakistani batsman to score a double century in his debut Test match away from home.

By stumps, Sri Lankan openers Karunaratne and Madushka ensured that their team did not lose any wickets.

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