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Pak­istan fall to first se­ries loss in the UAE since 2010 as Sri Lanka seal comprehensive 68-run tri­umph

Sport360 - - Front Page - Cricket with Ajit Vi­jayku­mar @ajvk1984 ajitvi­jayku­mar@sport360.com

Records are meant to be bro­ken. Pak­istan’s un­beaten run in Test se­ries in the UAE was bound to end one day. That it came right after the re­tire­ments of two of the finest bats­men ever pro­duced by Pak­istan in Mis­bah-ul Haq and You­nis Khan wasn’t sur­pris­ing, at least on the face of it.

But surely very few ex­pected Sri Lanka to end the fine run that started in 2010. This is the same side that was swept 9-0 across for­mats by In­dia. Two of the three Test de­feats were by an in­nings. Be­fore In­dia’s tour ended, Sri Lanka’s se­lec­tion com­mit­tee had re­signed. New full-time Test cap­tain Di­nesh Chandi­mal was then asked to lead the side in the UAE where the ‘hosts’ had never tasted se­ries de­feat.

The se­ries re­sult is as much about Pak­istan mak­ing some crit­i­cal mis­takes as it is about the Sri Lankans cap­i­tal­is­ing on their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Pak­istan skip­per Sar­fraz Ahmed in­sisted it was bat­ting that was the prob­lem. Pak­istan failed to chase 136 in the first Test and in the sec­ond match in Dubai, were 225-5 at one stage, after be­ing 52-5, chas­ing 317 be­fore it all fell apart.

Coach Mickey Arthur ad­mit­ted as much the pre­vi­ous day, say­ing he got the bat­ting line-up wrong. Azhar Ali was on fire last sea­son as an opener, scor­ing four cen­turies in­clud­ing a dou­ble and triple ton but has been pushed to one down. Shan Ma­sood and Sami As­lam don’t look like the most threat­en­ing top-or­der play­ers out there and Babar Azam regis­tered his fifth duck in six Tests this year.

The bowl­ing, ac­tu­ally, was just as prob­lem­atic. Pak­istan per­sisted with just one front-line spin­ner in Yasir Shah. Sri Lanka’s two spin­ners – Ran­gana Herath and Dil­ruwan Perera – picked 28 of the 40 wick­ets that fell.

In Sri Lanka’s sec­ond in­nings, Mo­ham­mad Amir couldn’t bowl after pick­ing up a foot in­jury while part-timer Haris So­hail took three wick­ets in one over. How­ever, in the long run, dis­miss­ing the op­po­si­tion in the sec­ond in­nings with such inad­e­quate re­sources will be ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult.

Pak­istan made mis­takes and Sri Lanka pounced on them. They made more than 400 in the first in­nings of both games. Cap­tain Chan- di­mal’s un­beaten cen­tury in Abu Dhabi was the boost his cap­taincy and the team needed. Their bat­ting fell apart in the sec­ond in­nings but Herath pulled off an­other miracle by tak­ing a six-for. He is 39 and Sri Lanka ex­tracted ev­ery bit out of him in the UAE.

Veteran off-spin­ner Perera, 35, is rarely talked about in the same breath as Herath but in Dubai, he up­staged his more il­lus­tri­ous part­ner.

Not only did he chip in with 58 in the first in­nings – which was crit­i­cal in a match Sri Lanka won by 68 runs – he took eight wick­ets in the game in­clud­ing the scalp of Ahmed in the sec­ond in­nings with the game slowly slip­ping away.

After the se­ries win, Chandi­mal said he wants com­mit­ment, at­ti­tude and dis­ci­pline from his play­ers. And he means it.

Sri Lanka had ear­lier sus­pended open­ing bats­man Danushka Gu­nathi­laka for six white-ball matches after his train­ing and fit­ness stan­dards were found to be well be­low in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. An­other play­ers in the cur­rent Test team is ap­par­ently on no­tice as well.

Strong lead­er­ship and a sea­soned bowl­ing at­tack helped Sri Lanka do to Pak­istan what no other team has ever done. And that was as in­cred­i­ble as the end of Pak­istan’s great run.

After the se­ries win, Chandi­mal said he wants com­mit­ment, at­ti­tude and dis­ci­pline from his play­ers. And he means it

Painful exit: Sar­fraz gri­maces after los­ing his wicket fol­low­ing a bat­tling 68 at the crease

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