Sri Lanka reaches 89-0 in test return to Pakistan

RAWALPINDI (AP) — Sri Lanka made a confident start in the first cricket test in Pakistan for more than a decade to reach 89-0 at lunch on Wednesday.

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who opted to bat first after winning the toss against an all-pace attack, hit nine boundaries and was unbeaten on 57 at the interval.

Karunaratne reached his 24th test half century off 90 balls with his eighth boundary when he edged Shaheen Afridi through the slips cordon.

Oshada Fernando took an hour to register a run, scoring off his 20th ball, and was batting on 26 as Sri Lanka negated Pakistan’s plans of fielding four fast bowlers.

Pakistan surprisingly left out veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah and instead awarded left-arm paceman Usman Shinwari a test debut.

But Karunaratne faced the bulk of the deliveries in the first hour as there was little lateral movement for the fast bowlers, who were deployed in short spells by captain Azhar Ali.

Sixteen-year-old Naseem Shah, who made his test debut against Australia at Brisbane last month, showed some spark. The right-arm fast bowler hit Karunaratne’s helmet with a sharp bouncer but couldn’t shake the confidence of the Sri Lanka captain.

Sri Lanka was the last team to play a test match in Pakistan, involved in a test series here in 2009 when terrorists attacked the team's bus at Lahore. The ambush killed eight people and left several Sri Lankan players and officials injured.

The 17,000-seat Pindi Cricket Stadium was heavily guarded by hundreds of police and army personnel on Wednesday and spectators had to go through stringent security checks before entering.

Only a small crowd made it into the stadium by the time of the toss and it grew to only around 2,500 fans by the lunch interval as cricket enthusiasts had to walk about a kilometer before entering into the stadium.

The stadium is hosting its first major international match since India played a test match here in 2004.

For Pakistan, opening batsman Abid Ali also made his test debut in place of Imam-ul-Haq, who struggled against Australia. Middle-order batsman Haris Sohail was given another opportunity, meaning recalled batsman Fawad Alam had to wait to make his test comeback after 10 years.

Sri Lanka went with three fast bowlers — Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara. The visitors left out experienced batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Perera but went with two spinners -- Dhananjaya de Silva and Dilruwan Perera.


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