Taking six wickets on the first day of a Test after losing the toss and bowling on a slow pitch might not be the worst day’s work. But with Sri Lanka having pushed past 300, scoring at 3.66 runs per over across the day, Pakistan were pushed onto the back foot by the time stumps were called in Galle on the first day of the second Test.
“I think we let them score a little bit too much,” Nawaz said. “The pitch isn’t like the first Test; it wasn’t turning and the pitch was slow. I think we would have been better served by squeezing the score rather than attacking. Because the pitch was very slow and the wickets weren’t coming as easily, you needed to work especially hard for them. So if we’d restricted their score, perhaps the wickets would have come easier.”
For much of the day, it was the home batters that dictated the tempo of the play, scoring at over four runs per over in the first and last sessions. In the morning, Sri Lanka’s positive intent was laid crystal clear in the way Oshada Fernando played, scoring 50 off 70 balls including three sixes off the spinners. In the final session, even when Naseem Shah threatened to burst through the lower order with a late new-ball wicket, Pakistan went searching, and Niroshan Dickwella’s unbeaten 43-ball 42 kept the scoring rate sprightly.
Nawaz singled out Oshada for praise, but it wasn’t as if Pakistan had no chances. Late in the second and third sessions, two straightforward catches were put down, reprieving Angelo Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella respectively. Pakistan captain Babar Azam was responsible for shelling both chances, leaving Nawaz to rue what might have been.
“In cricket, anyone can drop catches,” Nawaz said. “It’s very rare that it happens to Babar, but if those catches had been taken then we might have been able to restrict them to a lower score. Oshada attacked the spinners in the morning and the scoring happened quickly, and then when Chandimal and Mathews struck up a partnership, that was very effective for them.
“I think it could still be a spinner’s game, because I expect the pitch behaviour to change on the third and fourth day. In the second innings, the spinners will be more effective.”