Post-tea, Yasir capitalised to bag two more quick wickets, first sending Mathews back leg before and then removing Tharindu Kaushal caught by Misbah-ul-Haq at mid-off. © AFP

Post-tea, Yasir capitalised to bag two more quick wickets, first sending Mathews back leg before and then removing Tharindu Kaushal caught by Misbah-ul-Haq at mid-off. © AFP

Yasir Shah claimed 5 for 95 as Pakistan halted Sri Lanka’s march towards a big first-innings lead in the second Test between the two teams at the P Sara Oval in Colombo on Friday (June 26).

Shah made up for the absence of Wahab Riaz to keep Sri Lanka down to 304 for 9 by stumps on the second day in reply to Pakistan’s paltry 138. Kaushal Silva, the opener, top scored with 80 and Angelo Mathews made 77, but Sri Lanka lost six wickets for 112 runs after at one stage being 191 for 3 to lose the initiative somewhat.

Rangana Herath and Dushmantha Chameera will resume on the third day with their team leading by 166 runs on a pitch that is giving spinners plenty of bounce and turn.

Pakistan missed Riaz, who has been ruled out for the rest of the series with a hairline fracture in his left hand after being hit while batting on Thursday. Riaz bowled nine overs on the first day but did not take the field on Friday, leaving Pakistan one bowler short.

Shah, whose seven-wicket haul in Sri Lanka’s second innings fashioned Pakistan’s 10-wicket victory in the first Test in Galle, once again tormented batsmen. He had Lahiru Thirimanne caught at short leg by Azhar Ali for 7 before lunch, and then bowled both Dinesh Chandimal for 1 and Kithuruwan Vithanage for 3 in the afternoon session. Shah’s dismissal of Mathews in the final session gave him his 50th wicket in only nine Tests, making him the fastest among Pakistani bowlers to reach the mark.

He later said he got his confidence from an encouraging tweet by Shane Warne, whom he regards as his idol.

Warne had tweeted last year after watching Shah bowl on television: “I like the look of this leggie Yasir Shah, plenty of energy and nice variations of pace.” Shah said on Friday, “His words actually put me under pressure to live up to his appreciation and it has been good so far. The focus remains on bowling a good line and length and control my variations. One needs to be patient in Test cricket and that is what I am trying to do.”

Shah said losing the services of Riaz hurt his team, but he remained confident that the Test was not out of Pakistan’s reach. “We are a bowler short because of the injury and the need is to contain Sri Lanka’s lead,” he said. “The pitch is still playing well, but it will offer more for the spinners on the last two days.”

Silva, who hit a century in Galle, once again anchored the team’s innings. Silva and Mathews put on 72 for the fourth wicket to take the score to 191 for 3 when three wickets crashed in the space of 11 runs to open up the tail. Silva was run out when he drove Zulfiqar Babar to mid-on and charged down the wicket for a sharp single, only for Mathews to send him back.

Kumar Sangakkara, who resumed on 18 at the team’s overnight score of 70 for 1, made 34 when he attempted a big hit off Babar and was caught at long-on by Asad Shafiq.

Sri Lanka were tottering at 202 for 6 when Dhammika Prasad helped Mathews add 73 runs for the seventh wicket to boost the total. The two batsmen were dismissed in successive overs as Prasad was trapped lbw by Mohammad Hafeez for 35 and Mathews fell in similar fashion to Shah.

Hafeez, who was reported after the Galle Test for a suspect action and is likely to be tested next week, sent down ten economical overs that cost only 19 runs.