A Strident Pakistan level the Series on the final day


Series is Squared

Pakistan started the day knowing they would have to bowl Sri Lanka in the first session to give themselves any hope of winning the Test, and they did exactly that as Talha, Rehman and Ajmal combined to take the final five Sri Lankan wickets for the addition of 81 runs.

Talha had an early shout against Angelo Mathews, Hawkeye adjudging the ball to be clipping leg stump and the umpire’s original decision was upheld. Talha had his man a few overs later. Mathews had struck two boundaries in the over, including a top edge, before Talha induced another top edge which was caught by Manzoor, the man who had dropped the Sri Lankan captain yesterday. Mathews made 31 off 128 balls.

Pransanna Jayawardene departed in a manner similar to his senior namesake, being caught at short leg by Azhar ali off Saeed Ajmal for a well-constructed 49. Ahzar took third catch at short leg, this one the best of the lot, to remove Perera for 8. Rehman made it two in two as he had Herath caught at first slip and Eranga (3) was the last man to go, looking for a boundary off Saeed Ajmal .

The lunch interval was taken at the fall of the final Sri Lankan wicket, who were bowled out for 214 setting Pakistan 302 to win from 59 overs.

Ahmed Shehzad and Khurram Manzoor batted positively against the new ball, finding the boundary with regularity before Lakmal took two wickets in two overs. Manzoor gloved a bouncer to the wicket-keeper Jayawardene and Shehzad chipped a ball straight to square leg.

Azhar Ali was the next man in, and played a lovely cut shot second ball to suggest Pakistan had not given up on the chase, bringing up Pakistan’s 50 in 10 overs. He shared a 49-run partnership with Younis Khan before Khan pulled Mathews straight to Sangakkara at midwicket.

Sarfraz was sent in up the order as Pakistan looked to hold Misbah back in case of a rearguard effort being required, as Pakistan went into tea needing 195 runs from 35 overs with Azhar Ali on 29 and Sarfraz 7.

Right after the tea interval, Pakistani batsmen continued on their merry way and suddenly the move to promote Sarfraz Ahmed up the order looked like the one made by an aggressive captain in the surge towards an improbable victory. In the third over after tea, he took Rangana Herath on and hammered him for two fours and a six off consecutive deliveries. In the next few overs, runs came briskly without much risks. Azhar Ali joined his partner and swept Rangana Herath of four. The bowler, on whom Sri Lankan were banking on the most going on the final day, turned out to be their weakness. Azhar Ali stroked Suranga Lakmal for another four in the 37th over, but his partner, Sarfraz Ahmed, was caught behind off Shaminda Eranga for a very well-constructed 48 from 46 balls.

Captain Misbah-ul-Haq came out to bat with the required run-rate over 5 runs an over. Both players kept the scoreboard ticking over with ease as the fielders were wide-spread. Misbah-ul-Haq pulled his first boundary in the 40th over off Suranga Lakmal. Ones and two were quite easily available and both the batsmen benefited gleefully. Rangana Herath was once again targeted, but this time by Misbah-ul-Haq, who reverse swept him twice for two boundaries in as many overs. In the 47th over, Misbah-ul-Haq improvised again and managed another boundary off Rangana Herath.

Azhar Ali was closing on towards his hundred and he cut Shaminda Eranga for another boundary in the 52nd over. On the other end, Misbah-ul-Haq, brought up his quick-fire fifty. In Suranga Lakmal’s next over, Azhar Ali smashed another boundary. He brought up his ton with some quick running and celebrated in grand style. Suranga Lakmal got his revenge, but it was very late. Azhar Ali made an exceptional 103 runs.

Asad Shafiq was the next man in and he brought Misbah-ul-Haq on strike right away. In the 58th over, Misbah-ul-Haq finished the game off with a single and gifted Dav Whatmore an unbelievable victory in his last Test match as Pakistan’s coach. The series was level by 1-1 and Pakistan survived the scare of losing the first Test match series in the UAE.

Who said Test matches are dead? Day 5 started with Sri Lanka looking forward to a series victory but ended in gloom for the visitors as Pakistani batsmen – as if possessed by supernatural powers played out of their skins to gift their departing coach a most improbable victory. Along the way they also laid to rest many assumptions about their collective mental strength. Some would argue that this series was there for the taking for the home-side but history will show that the final outcome of this series was equally pleasing for many fans of Pakistani cricket who yearned for a batting display of such fortitude.


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