Dinesh Chandimal and Oshada Fernando hit half-centuries to drive Sri Lanka’s total before Pakistan hit back with wickets to share the opening day honours in the second Test on Sunday.
Chandimal, who hit 80, put on key partnerships including a 75-run fourth-wicket stand with Angelo Mathews, who fell short of fifty in his landmark 100th Test.
Sri Lanka reached 315-6 when bad light stopped play for the day, with the hosts electing to bat first in their bid to bounce back from an opening loss in the two-match series.
“If we can get 400 runs that will be a good total,” Oshada, who made 50, said after the day’s play. “That total will help us to put Pakistan under pressure. We need to get that total.”
Wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella, unbeaten on 42 off 43 balls, and debutant Dunith Wellalage, on six, were batting after pace bowler Naseem Shah struck with the second new ball.
Naseem bowled Dhananjaya de Silva for 32 and nearly got Dickwella on 24, but skipper Babar Azam dropped his second catch of the day, this time at second slip.
Left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz stood out for Pakistan with the two key wickets of Fernando and Chandimal.
“The total is a bit more than our expectations. We had opportunities come our way but could not avail them,” said Nawaz, adding it was “rare” to see Azam drop catches.
“There have been lapses, catches dropped, but still if we bowl them out in the first hour tomorrow then hopefully the score would not be much.”
Nawaz expects the nature of the pitch to change on days three and four, which could help the opposition spinners be more effective in the Sri Lankan second innings.
Chandimal, who made 206*, 76 and 94* in his previous two Tests, handled the opposition spinners with aplomb until his departure on a pitch that turned on day one.
Mathews started well but failed to capitalise on a reprieve on 36, when Azam dropped an easy catch at extra cover off left-arm spinner Nauman Ali.
Nauman came after the tea break to get Mathews caught behind, with the batsman walking back to a dressing room cheering his Test milestone.
Oshada and skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, who made 40, started with a 92-run opening stand before Nawaz broke through.
Oshada smashed Nawaz for six to reach his seventh Test half-century, but got out caught behind on the next ball.
“In the morning Oshada attacked the spinners and he scored quickly,” said Nawaz. “Then the partnership between Angelo Mathews and Chandimal was really effective for them.”
Kusal Mendis survived 11 balls and made three before being run out at the stroke of lunch off a direct throw from Agha Salman, while the batsman was backing up at the non-strikers’ end.
Karunaratne fell to Yasir Shah’s leg spin after his attempted reverse sweep went to backward point where Naseem took a sharp catch as Sri Lanka looked in trouble at 120-3.
Chandimal took stock with Mathews and then De Silva in a partnership of 63 but a wild slog got him caught at backward point off Nawaz.
Mathews (35) was feted by Sri Lanka Cricket and accompanied by his family at the start of the Test for reaching his century of five-day matches since his debut at the same venue in 2009, also against Pakistan.