Aamer and Ajmal punish Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka 292 & 217 Pakistan 342 & 71-2

Mohammad Aamer and Saeed Ajmal claimed three wickets apiece here yesterday to put Pakistan within touching distance of victory after three days of the first Test against Sri Lanka. Left-arm paceman Aamer rocked Sri Lanka's famed middle order with three quick strikes in the afternoon session, while off-spinner Ajmal mopped up the tail as the hosts were skittled for just 217 in their second innings. That left Pakistan with a target of just 168 to secure the lead in this three-Test series.

The visitors began the chase strongly, but Sri Lanka hit back by removing Khurram Manzoor and Younus Khan cheaply in fading light. Pakistan had progressed to 71 for two when bad light brought an end to the day's proceedings 17 overs prematurely. They require only 97 more runs for victory with two full days remaining.

Overnight rain had caused a slight delay to the start and Pakistan's bowlers diligently exploited the conditions. Sri Lanka's batsmen also contributed to their own downfall with an uncharacteristic lack of application. Umar Gul set the tone with a superb first over, snaring the wicket of opener Malinda Warnapura for a duck off the second delivery of the morning.

Tharanga Paranavitana steadied the ship with a stand of 68 for the second wicket with overnight batsman Rangana Herath. Younus, however, broke that partnership by trapping Herath lbw four overs before lunch.

The tail scrambled to raise the target above the 200-run mark, with Nuwan Kulasekara adding a useful 25, but he fell to a dubious leg-before decision from Daryl Harper. Ajmal was the fortunate bowler on that occasion, but there was no doubt with the dismissal of last man Ajantha Mendis. He was bowled between bat and pad for one, leaving Thilan Thushara not out on 15.