Sri Lanka vs Pakistan | Thursday 25 June | Colombo | 06:30
Pakistan completed their first Test win in Sri Lanka in nine years with a comprehensive ten-wicket victory in Galle. With the first four sessions lost to rain and the notoriously flat nature of Sri Lankan wickets, a result was something that could only be orchestrated by aggressive cricket and a bit of luck. Pakistan found themselves in all sorts of trouble in their first innings but staged an almost miraculous comeback. The tourists enacted a role reversal of last year’s Test at the same ground when Rangana Herath whirled his way through the Pakistani order. This year, it was Yasir Shah’s fizzing leg breaks that left the Sri Lankan batting line-up in tatters.
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 21/10
Poor shot selection in the second innings left Sri Lanka ruing their impulsive decisions. As Pakistan held their line and choked the run-rate, the frustration of long barren periods took its toll on Sri Lankan concentration. Having been inserted by Misbah-ul-Haq as the Test finally got underway, a Kaushal Silva hundred was the only notable contribution to a first-innings total of 300. The bowlers did a fantastic job to reduce Pakistan to 96/5 in pursuit, however that is the moment that the game began to unravel for Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s middle-order and tail added an extra 317 runs to leave Sri Lanka with a 117-run deficit. Sri Lanka then crumbled under the pressure exerted and left Pakistan only 90 runs to chase on the final afternoon. While many will point fingers at Sri Lanka’s weak second innings, the biggest failure for the hosts was the ineffectiveness of their spinners. Galle is historically a stronghold of Sri Lankan spin and on a track that turned from day one, a return of five scalps is simply not good enough. Admittedly, Rangana Herath has had a torrid time with injuries and is only just making his return. He should be expected to bounce back with aplomb once he rediscovers his rhythm.
The tourists recovered from their precarious position on the fourth morning to complete an emphatic turnaround. From being five down and 182 runs behind, Asad Shafiq’s magnificent hundred in a long partnership with Sarfraz Ahmed regained the initiative before Zulfiqar Babar recorded a half-century at number ten to take Pakistan into the ascendency. Enter Yasir Shah, whose spitting leggies on the fifth day certainly justified Misbah’s decision to bowl first. Shah picked up seven second-innings wickets to bamboozle Sri Lanka into submission on their own turf. According to Misbah, what made the victory all the more satisfying was it came from key contributions by young players with bright futures. Indeed, while fighting innings from the lower-order and tail are highly valued, the failures of the top order in the first innings will still be a cause for concern. Junaid Khan also went wicketless which presents added pressure to the pace battery. Left with 90 to win, Hafeez and Shehzad knocked off the total required at eight-an-over. They will be required to produce a similarly dominant performance in the first innings in Colombo. Hafeez has also come under fire for yet again being reported for a suspect bowling action.
Colombo, previously the site of mammoth knocks and Sri Lankan dominance, now only holds true to the former statement. Centuries are commonplace at the P Sara Oval but the hosts have lost the last three Tests at ground. Between 2005 and 2009 they won five Tests on the trot. The succession of losses would have been rather tough to stomach and Sri Lanka will be intent on putting on a performance worthy of squaring the series. Unfortunately there is plenty of rain expected, particularly over the weekend.
VERDICT: Draw 12/10
The draw is the short favourite for obvious reasons. Not only does Colombo generally produce
plenty of runs, but the state of the weather reports indicate that a large amount of the match will be lost. Weather reports are certainly subject to change but considering it is monsoon season in Sri Lanka, the likelihood of rain is high.