Pakistan’s Saud Shakeel takes a selfie with Sri Lankan cricket fans at the end of the third day of the first cricket test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Galle, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 . | Photo Credit: AP
Saud Shakeel became the first Pakistan batter to make a double hundred in Sri Lanka as the visitors took control of the first test after making 461 on Tuesday.
Trailing by 149 runs in the first innings, Sri Lanka reduced that to 135 when it was 14 for no loss at stumps on day three.
Shakeel was stranded on 208 not out, his second century in two Tests, when Pakistan were all out after tea.
In six tests since his debut in December, he has scored a double hundred, one hundred and five half-centuries. He has a Bradmanesque average of 98.5.
Shakeel was the mainstay of Pakistan’s innings by stitching important partnerships in the lower middle order and the tail after the top order collapsed.
At 101-5, a first-innings lead was the last thing on Pakistan’s mind, but Shakeel added 177 runs with Agha Salman to rescue his side. The partnership was a record for Pakistan for the sixth wicket against Sri Lanka, bettering the 173-run stand between Sarfaraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq in Dubai in 2017.
“When I came in to bat, I wanted to attack,” Shakeel said. “If I had tried to be defensive, we would have been bowled out for 150. That’s why I attacked and was able to take the game deep.
“We have been working to play this type of attacking cricket back in the camp at home. The coaching staff is supporting me. Pretty happy with the effort.” With an unusual batting technique, Shakeel used his feet expertly on spinners, punishing loose balls and forcing the Sri Lankans to spread the field during his stand with Salman.
Ramesh Mendis achieved a breakthrough in the rain-affected morning session when he dismissed Salman for 83.
With the tail lashing, Shakeel changed gears, quite content to farm the strike from the tail and the tactic worked.
After lunch, Shakeel extended the seventh-wicket stand with Noman Ali to 52 runs. He added a match defining 94 runs with Naseem Shah for the ninth wicket. Naseem contributed only six runs.
“When we were eight wickets down and Naseem Shah joined me, he said there is an opportunity for me to go for the double hundred,” said Shakeel. “A lot of credit to him for supporting me and not letting me panic.” Sri Lanka were sloppy in the field as Shakeel was dropped twice, on 93 by Nishan Madushka at leg gully and on 139 by Angelo Mathews at deep midwicket.
The left-handed batsman reached his double hundred cutting Dhananjaya de Silva behind square, splitting the fielders for four.
When last man Abrar Ahmed was dismissed for 10 with a total of 461, Shakeel was unbeaten after a marathon innings that lasted 506 minutes, during which he faced 361 balls and hit 19 boundaries.
Only two overseas players — West Indies’ Chris Gayle (333) and England’s Joe Root (228) — have a higher innings in Galle than Shakeel.
Mendis finished with a five-wicket haul, his fifth in 13 tests, while Prabath Jayasuriya claimed three wickets. Overall, Sri Lanka’s bowlers struggled against Shakeel’s clever batsmanship.
Sri Lanka’s openers batted through 3.4 overs without any trouble before bad light forced an early end to play. But they had a big ask on their hands on the fourth day.
“It’s an important day in the test match,” said Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood. “We have to come out and put our best foot forward.