Lahore - Captain Babar Azam produced a Test match batting master class to keep Pakistan in the hunt on day-two of the first of the two ICC World Test Championship matches against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Sunday.

Babar, stonewalled for 244 balls in all to ensure his side finishes a mere four runs behind Sri Lanka’s first innings score of 222 after they had been reduced to 148 for nine in the second session of an absorbing day of Test cricket. Pakistan then took the important wicket of Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne (16) as Sri Lanka finished day-two at 36 for one – 40 runs ahead with nine second wickets intact.

Earlier, Babar, the Pakistan batting linchpin added 70 runs for the 10th wicket with Naseem Shah (five not out) to script a remarkable comeback for his side that had endured a batting failure after resuming at the overnight score of 24 for two.

Azhar Ali (3) was dismissed in the first over after a delayed start due to rain while middle-order batters Mohammad Rizwan (19), debutant Agha Salman (5) and Mohammad Nawaz (5) returned to the pavilion in the first session of play. Shaheen Shah Afridi also fell for a first ball duck to leave Pakistan precariously placed at 104 for seven at lunch.

Left-arm-spinner Prabath Jayasuria, took the third successive five-wicket haul of his Test career which is a mere two Test old. Jayasuria took five of the first seven wickets to fall. Post-lunch, Babar received productive contributions from Yasir Shah (18) and Hasan Ali (17) yet Pakistan were in the doldrums when Hasan fell to off-spinner Ramesh Mendis.

Naseem then provided stubborn resistance and blunted one end as Babar after a steady start to the partnership upped the tempo shortly before the tea interval. Babar reached his century soon after play resumed post-tea, the right-hander reached the milestone on the 216th ball of his epic innings with the help of 10 fours and one six.

Babar was the last man to fall for 119 as Pakistan finished their first innings at 218. The Test is intriguingly poised and almost certain to produce a result barring weather interruption, day-three promises to provide another enthralling day’s of cricket with both sides expected to fight tooth and nail to gain the initiative.

Scores in brief

Sri Lanka 222 all out, 66.1 overs (Dinesh Chandimal 76, Maheesh Theekshana 38; Shaheen Shah Afridi 4-58, Hasan Ali 2-23) and 36 for 1, 11.5 overs vs Pakistan 218 all out, 90.5 overs (Babar Azam 119; Prabath Jayasuria 5-82, Ramesh Mendis 2-18).