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Sri Lanka batsman Jehan Mubarak is caught off bat-pad by Azhar Ali for 35 in the second innings on the third day of the third Test at Pallekele. AFP picture by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi

Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Pallekele

PALLEKELE: Sri Lanka batsman Jehan Mubarak said that the key to the team being in a good position at the end of the third day of the third and final Test against Pakistan at Pallekele International Stadium was the way they managed to negotiate the leg-spin of Yasir Shah.

The Pakistani spinner has been the main threat to Sri Lanka taking a big lead but Mubarak said the team did the right thing by seeing him off by making him bowl more than 20 overs.

Yasir ended the day with two wickets for 70 runs in an unchanged spell of 25 overs and Sri Lanka finished on 228-5 to lead overall by 291 runs going into the fourth day tomorrow.

“Mainly it has been against Yasir we have struggled especially left-handers. He bowls a tight line with seven fielders on the leg side and no scoring options. The fast bowlers we did okay,” said Mubarak at the end of the day.

“At 80 for four, the game could have gone either way. Initially we (Angelo and me) took some time to play ourselves in especially against Yasir who was bowling well. Then it got easier. The fast bowlers also weren’t that effective once the ball got older. Yasir was the main threat and it worked to an extent.

“It was very important to build a partnership. Another wicket and five down would have been tough and Pakistan would have been on top. They would have put a lot more pressure and their bowlers were bowling really well at that time.

“The fast bowlers were bowling well with the newer ball and Yasir was bowling at his best at that time. Our plan was to take Yasir to 20 overs and force the loose balls out of him. We saw that once he went pass 20 overs there were a few short balls and full tosses,” Mubarak said.

Mubarak helped his captain forge an 81-run partnership that was crucial at the stage with his own contribution being 35.

“I told Angelo that we should build a partnership. We thought that if we can get to 250 then Pakistan will have to chase 300. We knew we needed two partnerships. From 80 to four we tried to do that. As we went on it got a lot easier,” said Mubarak.

“It was easy to bat with Angelo. He said ‘if you have a positive option take that’. I was nine off 40 balls at one stage. I was asking him whether I had to do anything. Do I need to turn the strike over a bit more?

“He said, ‘if you are comfortable with defence don’t worry runs will come. But if you do have a shot, go for it if the ball is on your zone. I did it after a while and I felt a lot more comfortable.”

Mubarak said that Pakistan had their chances when they got three early wickets, but Sri Lanka’s plan to make the bowlers tired worked very well. “Once they got tired the faster bowlers weren’t that effective and so was Yasir.”

Mubarak said that they would like to put up as much runs as possible on the board before setting Pakistan a target to chase.

“We like to bat at least one session if possible tomorrow. There are two more days left and there’s a result either way. If we can get something like 350 or 380 that will be a good target. We need to push the game away from Pakistan from where we can attack all the time.”

The left-hander who was making a return to Test cricket after eight years said that he was disappointed to go and get a bigger score than 35.

“I felt comfortable in the middle but disappointed to get out after getting a start and after doing all the hard work,” said Mubarak. “In both innings it was a tough situation. I have done the hard work and reach a position from where I can consolidate, but couldn’t go on. In the second innings I got a good ball off the rough.

“I need to be more proactive once I get 20s and 30s. Once you get a start the bowlers will push the field back. You won’t get those boundaries after a while as they are trying to contain. Especially against Yasir, he can bowl a wicket-taking ball anytime.”

Mubarak said that he was not the same player he was when he played his last Test against England in 2007.

“I have understood my game a lot more what my strengths and what my weaknesses are. I worked on my weakness during the club season,” said Mubarak.

“I was not a sweeper but I started to sweep against the spinners. I am using my feet against the spinners. I was hungry for runs. I set myself to go out there and score runs and get big hundreds and set myself targets. I always felt I was good enough to play at international level. Hopefully I can build on from what I have got.”

When Mubarak was recalled to the national Test side at the age of 34 there was a lot of resentment from certain sections of the public.

“When you get older people ask all the questions. Why should you give another chance after all these chances. I gave lot of importance to my fitness and fielding. I worked hard on it. I batted alone a lot with our coach Sajith Fernando,” said Mubarak.

“In club matches my target was to get a double hundred which I never had. Then I wanted to score 1000 runs for a season. I thought whether I got selected or not, I wanted to achieve certain targets.”