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Herath puts Pakistan in a spin

LEFT-ARM spinner Rangana Herath took four wickets to spark a Pakistan batting collapse as Sri Lanka scrambled for an unlikely 50-run win in the first test yesterday.

Chasing only 168 to win, Pakistan resumed the fourth day in a seemingly comfortable position needing another 97 runs with eight wickets in hand and two days remaining.

But, the chase proved to be a challenge on the Galle pitch on which the highest winning margin in a test had been just six runs and if Pakistan had chased down the score it would have been the third-highest fourth-innings score on this pitch.

But Herath (4-15) and seamer Thilan Thushara (2-21) upended the Pakistan innings, striking at regular intervals to hasten a batting collapse as the visitors were bundled out for 117.

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said despite being outplayed by Pakistan for the entire match his lineup had started the day confident of a result, provided it took two wickets in the first five overs.

"We never expected it to happen so quickly," Sangakkara said. "I think the way Rangana and Thilan bowled was just spot-on."

Herath, a late replacement for Muttiah Muralitharan - the all-time leading bowler in test cricket - struck in the second over, trapping first innings centurymaker Mohammad Yousuf (12) leg before wicket for his overnight score. He soon dismissed Salman Butt (28) caught by Tharanga Paranavitana.

Thushara then had Shoaib Malik (0) caught behind by Tillakaratne Dilshan and trapped Kamran Akmal (6) lbw. Misbah-ul-Haq's run out for seven left Pakistan reeling at 85-7, with all its recognized batsmen back in the pavilion.

Herath wrapped up the innings when he had Abdur Rauf caught by Mahela Jayawardene at slip to hand his side a famous win to kick-start the three-match test series, the first between the two countries since the Sri Lankan team's convoy was attacked by terrorists en route to a test match at Lahore, Pakistan, in March.

Herath was voted man of the match for his career-best bowling.

Sangakkara said his team had not batted to its potential and needed to rely on the bowlers to save the match.

"I think until today Pakistan outplayed us and today in the morning we showed a lot of heart and character."

Pakistan skipper Younis Khan praised Sangakkara for his innovative captaincy in starting the day with a spinner. "It was good captaincy actually. Sangakkara was fantastic...he knew Yousuf was struggling with the spinner and suddenly we were under pressure."

But Younis promised a comeback in the series. "We still have two test matches," he said. "If we play to our potential we will square the series or even win the series."

Pakistan held the upper hand after Younis won the toss on the first day and sent Sri Lanka in to bat, restricting the hosts to 292.

Yousuf celebrated his return to tests with 112 runs, his 29th century that helped Pakistan reach 342 in reply.

Rookies Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Aamer took three wickets each to end Sri Lanka's second innings for 217 runs, giving Pakistan what should have been an achievable target. Aamer returned 3-38 and took a match haul of six wickets while Ajmal recorded 3-34 and took five wickets in the match.


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