Sri Lanka got off to a solid start in the opening session before Pakistan made a comeback in the last two sessions on Day 1 of the first Test in Rawalpindi on Wednesday (December 11), which meant the honours were shared at the end of day's play as Pakistan celebrated the return of Test cricket after 10 long years.
Despite the Rawalpindi surface being known for assisting fast bowlers, Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne won the toss and opted to bat first. Karunaratne led from the front, scoring 59 runs before Naseem Shah (2 for 51) and Co. triggered a collapse. Sri Lanka were 202 for 5 in 68.1 overs, with Dhananjaya de Silva and Niroshan Dickwella unbeaten on 38 and 11 respectively, before the play had to be stopped because of the bad light.
It was a momentous occasion for Pakistan, and there was applause as Pakistan captain Azhar Ali tossed the coin in the air to open proceedings. With foreign teams refusing to tour Pakistan since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team, Pakistan had played their 'home' fixtures in the United Arab Emirates, meaning all of their current team were now playing their first Test on home soil.
Pakistan, who surprisingly left out their key spinner Yasir Shah and opted for a four-man pace attack, struggled for a breakthrough in the first session. Debutant Usman Shinwari looked threatening but openers Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando batted with great composure. The surface at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium didn't offer much movement and that made life even more difficult for the Pakistani bowlers.
Naseem Shah managed to generate good pace and even hit Karunaratne on the back of his neck in the 19th over. The left-hander however showed no signs of discomfort and hit Shaheen Afridi for a boundary to reach 24th Test fifty. The 96-run opening stand was finally broken in the 31st over when Afridi pinned Karunaratne right in front of the stumps with a very full delivery. That's when the collapsed happened as Naseem had Oshada caught at first slip when he was on 40.
Kusal Mendis (10) and Dinesh Chandimal (2) didn't contribute much as Sri Lanka were reduced to 127 for 4 after being 96 for no loss. While Mendis was caught behind to become Shinwari's first Test victim, Mohammad Abbas knocked over Chandimal with a superb inswinger.
Just when it looked like Pakistan were taking the control of the game, Mathews and Dhananjaya joined hands to stabilise the innings for the visiting side. The two added 62 runs for the fifth wicket and propelled Sri Lanka closer to the 200-run mark. Both players looked comfortable in the middle before Mathews went for a needless drive, when he was on 31, in the bowling of Naseem and ended up edging it to Asad Shafiq at second slip.
Playing four fast bowlers can come back to haunt Pakistan as they maintained a horrible over rate on Day 1. For each over a team is found to be short, there will be two World Test Championship points deducted. The home team will look to increase the pace of the game on Day 2 and take the remaining five wickets as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will hope that Dickwella keeps his positive style of batting going and Dhananjaya hangs around for as many overs as possible.