But veteran Herath (six for 43) and his fellow finger spinner Dilruwan Perera (three for 46) had other ideas.
Moment of the day When Dilruwan Perera dismissed Yasir Shah to end Pakistan's limp resistance, the Sri Lankans charged around the field with the fevered delirium of a side not used to winning. Sri Lanka lead the series 1-0 now.
With that, Herath not only breached the 400-wickets mark in Test cricket, but also became the first-ever bowler to scalp 100 wickets against Pakistan. Sri Lanka had a nervy wait, but it was merely a stay of execution for the beleaguered hosts.
Earlier, leg-spinner Yasir Shah took 5-51 - his 32nd five wicket haul in Tests - to dismiss Sri Lanka for 138 in their second innings.
It was the wise old spinner Rangana Herath who scalped a six wicket haul to break through the Pakistani batting lineup.
The match was moving towards a draw when Pakistan ended their first inning with a lead of only three runs, thanks to to Haris Sohail's late 50 with the tail.
"I'm on the groundsman's case", Du Plessis said yesterday after South Africa bowled out Bangladesh for 90 to complete a crushing 333-run win on the fifth and final day of the first Test at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom.
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Earlier, Pakistan in response to Sri Lanka's 419 scored 422 in their first innings.
Masood and Aslam provided a solid platform for Azhar with an opening partnership of 114, but the pair both departed in quick succession to give the tourists a sniff. He edged Nuwan Pradeep behind for 28. A Sri Lanka win can be backed at 6/1 with Sky Bet.
PNG's eighth-wicket pair, who had already put on 32 on Sunday, added a further 61 runs yesterday morning. Herath noted there was assistance from the pitch late in the match, but he was feeling sore after a marathon bowling spell. If a result appeared out of the question at that point, it appeared all but certain once the Sri Lankans had crumbled to 138 all out in their second innings.
The 136 set Pakistan was Sri Lanka's lowest defended target, improving on the 168 they set the Pakistanis in the Galle Test in 2009. Herath was the ideal figure to lead the PR exercise, but Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne, had all played their roles as well. He hit four boundaries in his seventh Test half century.
Pakistan are the 11/10 favourites with Sky Bet to claim victory.
It was not to be though as in the very next over, Herath trapped Abbas lbw for a duck to hand Pakistan their first loss in Abu Dhabi. Herath returned to get rid of risky Hasan Ali and then cleaned up Mohammed Amir.
Karunaratne and Chandimal battled through a testing afternoon session without losing a wicket as Sri Lanka fought back.