Sa’adi on History-Making Sri Lankan Series Win

Sa’adi Thawfeeq, in Daily News, 11 October 2017, with the title reading “Lankan cricketers create history in UAE”

DUBAI, Tuesday – Sri Lanka inflicted on Pakistan their first Test series defeat since they made the UAE their home venue in 2010 when they beat them by 68 runs with more than two sessions to spare on the fifth and final day to win the second Test played at the Dubai International Stadium and thereby clinch the two-match series 2-0.

Pakistan chasing 317 for victory lost half their side for 62 but were given a new lease of life by their sixth wicket pair Asad Shafiq and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed who figured in a record sixth wicket stand of 173 to raise their team’s hopes of a series levelling win.

But with the match in the balance going into the final day – Sri Lanka requiring five Pakistani wickets and Pakistan 119 runs with Shafiq and Sarfraz at the wickets the Test was set for an enthralling finish.

However batting on a fifth day wicket was always tricky and so it proved as Pakistan were bowled out for 248 with off-spinner Dilruwan Perera taking over the role of destroyer from the great Rangana Herath by finishing with figures of 5 for 98 – his fifth five-for in his career and his second against Pakistan. As in the first innings it was a concerted performance by their bowlers that brought Sri Lanka this memorable win.

It was Sri Lanka’s first win over Pakistan in an away series since 2000 when they won 2-1 under the captaincy of Sanath Jayasuriya in Pakistan.

What a turnaround of fortunes it has been for Sri Lanka on this tour. They came to the UAE having been whitewashed by India in the Test, ODI and T20I series and were looking from where their first win would come from.

But the team rallied around captain Dinesh Chandimal and with the belief they had even in difficult times enabled them to pull off a thrilling 21-run win in the first Test played at Abu Dhabi and yesterday they sewed up the series by continuing that good run with another outstanding display on the field after being bowled out for 90 in their second innings.

Savouring the memorable win was Sri Lanka’s new chairman of selectors Graeme Labrooy who flew in four days ago to witness the Test. It has been a grand beginning for Labrooy and his new set of selectors who have given confidence on continuity of selection to the players so that they can play with a free mind. 

Twenty minutes into play yesterday Sri Lanka achieved the breakthrough they badly needed when Perera for a larger part playing second fiddle to Herath came into the spotlight breaking the threatening partnership by having Sarfraz caught off his glove on the sweep shot at deep square leg for 68 (off 130 balls) by Nuwan Pradeep and, off the next over trapped Mohammed Amir lbw for four.

With the new ball now in play Sri Lanka took their chances as Herath enticed Yasir Shah out of his crease for Dickwella to affect a stumping and after Lakmal had century-maker Shafiq brilliantly caught by Mendis at wide gully for a superb counter-attacking century, Herath put the final nail on the Pakistan coffin by having Wahab Riaz caught in the covers by Chandimal to spark of celebrations on the field and in the Lankan dressing room.

Mendis somewhat compensated for his two lapses on the fourth day with this stunning catch to send back Pakistan’s century maker.

Pakistan’s last five wickets fell for 23 runs within the space of 90 minutes.

Before the final touches were put to the Test, Sri Lanka went through a few heart stopping moments when Karunaratne dropped Shafiq at 100 off Perera and two runs later Shafiq survived an lbw dismissal off Gamage which he successfully reviewed. At the other end Sarfraz survived a stumping chance at 64 off Perera escaping marginally.

Shafiq who played superbly for his 112 off 176 balls (10 fours) had the misfortune of ending on the losing side for the second time in his career. In a similar counter attacking innings against Australia at Brisbane in 2016 he spearheaded Pakistan’s run chase for 490 with a fighting century (137) only for his team to fall short by 39 runs.

Opener Dimuth Karunaratne who scored a mammoth 196 in the first innings was named Man of the Match and also Man of the Series with an aggregate of 306 (avg. 76.50).

Sri Lanka and Pakistan will now meet in a five-match ODI series starting at Dubai on Friday.

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