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