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Herath shines as SL record thrilling 7-wicket victory

- Hosts beat fading light & approaching rain to chase down target
Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath celebrates with Dilruwan Perera after taking one of his six wickets, on Sunday

Galle: Mahela Jayawardene took on the unusual role of an opening batsman to hand Sri Lanka a thrilling seven-wicket victory on the final day of the first Test, against Pakistan, in Galle, on Sunday.

The hosts, needing 99 to win in a minimum of 21 overs, beat fading light and approaching rain to cruise home in the 17th over in front of some 5,000 jubilant home fans.

Jayawardene, who is due to retire from Test cricket after the two-match series, scored 26 before Kumar Sangakkara (21) and skipper Angelo Mathews (25 not out) chipped in lower down the order.

Mathews and Kithuruwan Vithanage smashed 17 runs in the 16th over bowled by Junaid Khan and then scored the winning run in the next over just before rain hit Galle.

The win was set up by left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who claimed six for 48 that bundled Pakistan out for 180 in their second innings in the post-tea session.

Pakistan, who started the day at 4 for one, lost three wickets in the morning session to go to lunch on 66 for four.

Angelo Mathews and Kithuruwan Vithanage after winning the first Test, on Sunday

The visitors added eight runs in the morning when seamer Dhammika Prasad had nightwatchman Saeed Ajmal edging a catch to wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella.

Opener Ahmed Shehzad made 16 when he was given out leg-before to off-spinner Dilruwan Perera to make it 39 for three.

Shehzad, who consulted his partner Azhar Ali before deciding not to ask for an umpire’s review, would have survived if he had signalled for it. Television replays showed the ball missing the leg stump.

Herath dealt Pakistan a bigger blow when he bowled first innings century-maker Younis Khan for 13 to reduce the visitors to 55 for four.

Ali and skipper Misbah-ul Haq put on 56 for the fifth wicket on either side of lunch when both fell at the same total to make it 111 for six — just 29 runs ahead with 45 overs left in the game. Ali (41) was caught behind off Herath and Misbah (28) was leg-before to Perera in the next over.

Pakistan found themselves pinned against the wall at 133 for seven when Asad Shafiq, the last recognised batsman, was leg-before to Herath for eight.

Seamer Shaminda Eranga had Abdur Rehman caught behind at the stroke of tea before Herath dismissed Mohammed Talha and last man Junaid to leave gutsy Sarfraz Ahmed stranded on 52 not out.

The second and final Test will be played at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo from Thursday.

Meanwhile Pakistan's spin bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed, has defended the performance of spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman.

Mushtaq, who has worked as spin bowling consultant with the England team before joining the Pakistan team, said Pakistan was playing a Test match after a six-month gap and that made a huge difference.

“Spinners need to get into groove and find their rhythm and this has not been possible for our spinners as they haven't played a Test for six months now," said the former Test spinner.

Mushtaq also blamed the pitch for the struggle that the bowlers had to face in the first Test.

"There is nothing in the pitch for the spinners, so it has been a long struggle. But I am confident the more they play, they will find their rhythm and start bowling much better," he added.

Mushtaq, who took charge of the Pakistani bowling department in June, defended Ajmal pointing out he was also unlucky to not get many wickets as he beat the bat several times.

(Agencies)