ABU DHABI, Sunday: Veteran spinner Rangana Herath believes that Kusal Mendis who is 16 not out will be the key to Sri Lanka getting anywhere close to saving or winning the first Test against Pakistan being played at Abu Dhabi here.
“We need to score as much as we can. We cannot say that this is the score that we would like to get at. But we need to bat the first hour off and then go onto till lunch at least and see how much we have,” said Herath at the end of the fourth day.
“Kusal he is the key. He needs to bat as much as he can. We also have Dickwella and Dilruwan and we need to get to a decent total,” he said.
Sri Lanka ended the fourth day on 69-4 to lead overall by 66 runs with six second innings wickets in hand going into the fifth and final day today.
Pakistan managed to gain a slender three-run lead after Herath had produced yet another top drawer performance with the ball.
Already the leading left-arm spinner in the game, Herath’s five wickets for 93 took him closer to six wickets from achieving 400 Test wickets.
“Actually it was not an easy wicket for the spinners. Until the fourth day, only 24 wickets had fallen in the Test match,” said Herath.
“It is not easy to pick up five wickets in an innings. As far as I concerned, I am very pleased with the way I bowled.”
Herath had a few words of praise for Pakistan’s debutant Haris Sohail who defied the Lankan bowlers for 224 minutes in compiling a maiden Test fifty.
“He showed a lot of character and a lot of maturity for a guy playing his first Test match.”
Sohail said that it was a dream for him to play in a Test match following a knee injury which he picked up on the tour to Sri Lanka in 2015 and one that threatened to disrupt his career.
“There was pressure and it was a comeback and a debut. The confidence had been shaken over the last two years, but I had good backing from the management,” said Sohail.
“The last two years were very difficult. I struggled a lot. It was that kind of injury. Things weren’t right for me. But it was a dream for me to become a Test cricketer and now that is complete.”
Apart from scoring a useful 78 that put Pakistan in front of Sri Lanka in the first innings, Sohail also picked up an important wicket by trapping Kaushal Silva lbw for 25 in the Sri Lanka second innings.
“You could say it was my best day. Debut, and to start like that, to get wickets, it was a very good day.”