Shan Masood and Younis Khan compiled unbeaten centuries to keep Pakistan in the hunt for a landmark victory in the series-deciding third and final Test against Sri Lanka on Monday.
Set a challenging target of 377 runs, the tourists recoverd from a shaky 13-2 to move to 230 without further loss by stumps on the rain-free fourth day in Pallekele.
Masood, the five-Test old left-hander, was unbeaten on 114, having reached his maiden century by lofting off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal for a six over long-on towards the end of play.
Younis, who made his 100th Test appearance in the second match of the series, got to his 30th century in the day’s last over. The pair have put on 217 so far for the third wicket with Younis on 101.
Pakistan will enter the final day’s play on Tuesday needing a further 147 runs with eight wickets in hand on a wearing, but easy-paced pitch at the Pallekele International Stadium.
If Pakistan win, it will be the first time a visiting team will have scored more than 300 runs in the fourth innings to win a Test on Sri Lankan soil.
Pakistan’s highest successful chase is 314 runs they made against Australia to win the Karachi Test way back in 1994.
Earlier, Sri Lanka’s captain Angelo Mathews was last man out for 122 as the hosts took their overnight score of 228-5 to 313 before they were all out at the stroke of lunch.
Pakistan, starting their second innings after the break, were dealt a blow before a run had been scored when seamer Suranga Lakmal bowled Ahmed Shehzad to claim his 50th Test wicket.
Sri Lanka struck again in the seventh over when Azhar Ali was caught down the leg-side by wicket-keeper Dinesh Chandimal off Dhammika Prasad for five.
Masood, on 79, was fortunate to survive a close shout for leg-before by Mathews, who asked for a review after on-field umpire Paul Reiffel had turned down the appeal.
Replays proved inconclusive whether the ball had hit the bat, but with both the Hot Spot and Snicko technologies not available in this series, the TV umpire gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman.
Pakistan’s fast bowler Imran Khan took all the five wickets that fell in the morning session in the space of 33 balls.
Imran’s maiden five-wicket haul saw Sri Lanka lose their last five wickets for 35 runs after they were coasting at 278-5 in the first hour of play.
Mathews, who came in to bat on Sunday afternoon with his team reduced to 35-3, anchored the innings for more than six hours in which he hit 12 boundaries and a six.
Mathews reached his fifth Test century with a flick off Rahat Ali for two runs, but not before he lost two partners off consecutive balls when he was on 99.
Chandimal was trapped leg-before by Imran for 67, ending a 117-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Mathews.
Next man Prasad bagged a ‘king pair’– dismissed first ball in both innings — when he edged the next delivery from Imran to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Kaushal denied Imran a hat-trick with a defensive push, but the bowler had the last three batsmen caught behind to hasten the end of the innings.
Pakistan won the first Test in Galle by 10 wickets and Sri Lanka took the second in Colombo by seven wickets. (AFP)