Abu Dhabi: Kumar Sangakkara put his wealth of experience on show with a pugnacious unbeaten hundred to keep Pakistan`s victory bids on hold in the first Test on Friday.
The 33-year-old left-hander notched 161 for his 26th Test hundred to help Sri Lanka, trailing by 314 runs in the first innings, reach 298-5 in their second knock at close on the fourth day at Abu Dhabi stadium.
They need only 16 runs to make Pakistan bat again, and will look to bat out at least two of the three sessions on the fifth and final day to salvage an unlikely draw.
Sangakkara found an able ally in Prasanna Jayawardene (25 not out) to fight off the second new ball, with which paceman Umar Gul struck with the first delivery to remove Angelo Mathews (22).
Sangakkara-Jayawardene stand for the sixth wicket has so far yielded 65 runs.
Playing his 101st Test, Sangakkara took the fight to the Pakistani bowlers, adding an invaluable 153 runs for the second wickets with opener Lahiru Thirimanne who made a career-best 68.
Walking into bat after Sri Lanka lost opener Tharanga Paranavitana off the very first ball of their second innings on Thursday, Sangakkara batted with resolve as Sri Lanka, resuming at 47-1, reached 125-1 by lunch.
Pakistan then hit back by dismissing Thirimanne soon after lunch, run out after the opener, taking a second run but failed to beat a throw from the fine-leg by Azhar Ali.
Seven runs later, Mahela Jayawardene (four) played on to off-spinner Saeed Ajmal before paceman Junaid Khan bowled skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan through the gate for nine, leaving Sri Lanka at 191-4.
Despite losing partners, Sangakkara kept his cool, hitting Khan for his 11th boundary to reach three-figure mark, his sixth against Pakistan. He has so far hit 16 boundaries during his 295-ball stay at the pitch.
Pakistan spilled as many as six catches in the day but their first innings, three off Thirimanne, which helped Sri Lanka fight back.
Khan, who destroyed Sri Lanka with 5-38 in their first innings of 197, was the unlucky bowler on three occasions as Mohammad Hafeez grassed two regulation catches in the slip off Thirimanne when he was on 40.
Much to Khan`s disappointment Younis Khan held a sharp edge off Sangakkara but the catch was disallowed by the umpires as the ball had bounced before getting into the hands of the slip fielder.
Pakistan again let off Sangakkara when Younis failed to hold onto a sharp edge when a Saeed Ajmal`s delivery surprised the left-handed batsman batting on 56.
Pakistan also let off Prasanna when substitute fielder Wahab Riaz failed to catch a miscued hook off Gul when the batsman was 12.
The two remaining Test matches in the series, shifted to neutral venues over security fears in Pakistan, will be played in Dubai (October 26-30) and Sharjah (November 3-7).