Sri Lanka vs Pakistan | Friday 03 July - Tuesday 07 July | Pallekele | 06:30
Sri Lanka negotiated the threat of rain and chased down a 153-run target to square the series with Pakistan in Colombo. The Test series concludes with a winner-takes-all encounter in Pallekele, a draw satisfying neither of the subcontinental camps. Dhammika Prasad was named Man of the Match for his seven wickets and hand in Pakistan’s eventual demise, the first time in five years that a Sri Lankan seamer has received the award. It was yet another case of Pakistan making a fool of pundits with their unpredictability; imperious one moment, dreadful the next.
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 23/10
Sri Lanka’s victory in Colombo was their fiftieth Test win on home soil, making New Zealand the only top-eight side to not have achieved the milestone. The aggression of Prasad first up on the opening day - in complete contrast to the traditional Sri Lankan seamer - rattled Pakistan’s top order, before Tharindu Kaushal’s bracing off-spin caused the opposition to collapse. Kaushal picked up a five-wicket haul and Pakistan found themselves all out for 138. Sri Lanka were slow in setting a target and methodically added 315. Pakistan’s reply was much improved but the deficit before them too challenging. Prasad again starred by picking up four wickets and only an Azhar Ali century provided anything worthy of reading on the Pakistani scorecard. The home side, threatened by the prospect of rain, promoted Vithanage to open the second innings and promptly motored to a seven-wicket victory. There were more signs of promise in the Sri Lankan bowling stocks with Dushmantha Chameera clocking close to 150 km/h in subcontinental conditions. They’ll fancy themselves to keep the pressure on Pakistan and salvage the series from a poor start.
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Pakistan couldn’t prevent themselves from losing a series of wickets in large clumps to dash any hopes they had of winning the second Test. A miserable first innings in which only four batsmen reached double figures meant Pakistan were going to have to do something remarkable to gain a foothold in the match. Azhar Ali made his ninth Test hundred in decent partnerships with Ahmed Shehzad and Younis Khan in their second innings, but after the losses of the middle-order relatively cheaply Pakistan capitulated at the back end yet again. Speedster Wahab Riaz has been ruled out for the remainder of the series with a fracture to his hand, having been struck in the first innings in Colombo. This heaps even more pressure on a misfiring Junaid Khan, while Mohammad Hafeez is still at risk of being pulled up for the bowling action. One area Pakistan won’t be sweating is spin. Yasir Shah continued to cause problems for Sri Lanka in Colombo, picking up six wickets in the first innings and eight in the match. He now has seventeen in the series, which averages to slightly over four wickets per innings. Pakistan need only put a stop to their irrational collapses to seriously challenge Sri Lanka in Pallekele.
There have only ever been three previous Tests played in Pallekele, all three of them drawn. The first in 2010 against the West Indies was rained out, the second against Australia also weather affected and the third against Pakistan skipped day two due to showers. The weather has rain on the forecast but not to the same extent as prior to the Test in Colombo, which survived for a result. I won’t make the same mistake again.
VERDICT: Sri Lanka 23/10
I’m betting that the trend of draws in Pallekele will end in this encounter. While Pakistan’s comeback in the second Test hinted at better days, they are the same side as ever under Misbah. Wildly inconsistent and somehow incomplete. Sri Lanka showed a passionate resurgence through persistence with both the ball and bat and that will stand them in good stead here. Back the hosts.