Sri Lanka all-rounder Thisara Perera hit a maiden Test half-century off 86 balls to place his team in a strong position at the end of the third day of the third and final Test against Pakistan at the Pallakele Stadium on Tuesday.
Perera came to the wicket with Sri Lanka on 236-7, a lead of 10 runs. By the time he was last out, at 75, he had extended it to a useful 111 as Sri Lanka recovered to total 337 in reply to Pakistan's first innings of 226.
By the close Pakistan were 27 for one wicket and trailed Sri Lanka, who lead the three-match series 1-0, by 84 runs.
Pakistan lost opener Taufiq Umar for four when he was ruled out lbw off Nuwan Kulasekara although television replays later showed the ball had pitched outside leg stump.
Mohammad Hafeez was unbeaten on eight and Azhar Ali was six not out.
Perera, who took four wickets in the Pakistan first innings, turned the game round with his bat striking three sixes and four fours in scoring 75.
Perera made Pakistan pay dearly for missing him twice at 11 and 22 by hammering Umar Gul for 15 runs in one over which included one six and two fours.
Gul was the unfortunate bowler on both occasions, putting down an easy return catch and then seeing his skipper Misbah-ul-Haq do the same at first slip four overs later. He had earlier seen Younus Khan drop Thilan Samaraweera at 49.
Perera and Kulasekara added a valuable 84 runs for the eighth wicket.
Junaid Khan claimed Kulasekara's wicket, having him caught behind by stand in wicket-keeper Taufiq Umar, and then finished off the innings by bowling Perera to end with his second five-wicket haul of the series.
Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took three for 66 when he had Rangana Herath lbw for two to add to his earlier two wickets in the afternoon.
The luckless Gul ended with the wicket of Prasanna Jayawardene trapping him lbw for 20.
Half-centuries by overnight batsmen Tharanga Paranavitana (75) and Thilan Samaraweera (73) helped Sri Lanka to reach 220 for six wickets at tea.
After a barren morning session Pakistani bowlers claimed three wickets to peg back Sri Lanka.
Pakistan missed an early opportunity to separate the Paranavitana-Samaraweera pair when Younus dropped Samaraweera, then on 49, at second slip in the second over after lunch, sent down by Gul.
Samaraweera subsequently cut Gul to bring up his half-century in 110 balls with the help of eight fours.
Both the batsmen looked at ease against the Pakistani bowlers but Samaraweera's momentary lapse in concentration led to him being trapped leg before by Ajmal.
Samaraweera spent 215 minutes at the wicket to score 73 off 160 balls with nine fours while sharing a 143-run fourth-wicket stand with Paranavitana.
Next man in Angelo Mathews (nine) played a loose shot to a wide Junaid delivery to depart soon afterwards and Ajmal struck again by removing Paranavitana who had been batting for more than five hours.
The left-hander tried to cut a delivery too close to his body and played the ball on to his stumps to go out after facing 188 balls. He had eight fours in his knock.
After rain had washed out the entire second day's play, the match had resumed under bright sunshine with Sri Lanka on 44-3.
Paranavitana and Samaraweera overcame a tough first hour before playing some positive shots on a surface which seemed to have settled down after a frantic first day when 13 wickets tumbled.
Photo: Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera plays a shot during the third day of their third and final Test in Pallekele (REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)