SRI LANKA-PAKISTAN TEST REVIEW: Lanka passes pink ball test and beyond | Daily News

SRI LANKA-PAKISTAN TEST REVIEW: Lanka passes pink ball test and beyond

Skipper Dinesh Chandimal embraces a tired Rangana Herath who once again proved to be Pakistan’s nemesis.
Skipper Dinesh Chandimal embraces a tired Rangana Herath who once again proved to be Pakistan’s nemesis.

DUBAI, Thursday: For the cynics who have been baying for blood when the national cricket team was being thrashed by a strong Indian side and were hoping for a similar defeat at the hands of Pakistan, Sri Lanka’s 2-0 win in the two-Test series in the UAE must have come like a sudden bolt from the blue or rather to put it more sarcastically a slap in the face.

Absolutely no one gave Sri Lanka a chance of beating Pakistan let alone whitewashing them in the Test series. Pakistan who had made the UAE their second home since 2010 had been unconquerable in nine series winning five and drawing four until they met their waterloo at the hands of Sri Lanka.

Skipper Dinesh Chandimal embraces a tired Rangana Herath who once again proved to be Pakistan’s nemesis.

The change of fortunes for the Lankan team had to come at some point because they had hit rock bottom losing a Test to Bangladesh and an ODI series to Zimbabwe before the Indian debacle that they could not sink any further but the only way was to go up.

This remarkable turnaround came against Pakistan where the two Tests produced two enthralling encounters so that the result was decided only on the fifth day. For those calling for four-day Tests, this series defined that Test matches should remain five days and nothing less for, had it been a four-day game it would not have produced the exciting results, but ended in two drab draws.

The series also saw Sri Lanka make their debut in a night Test match with the pink ball and coming on top with all guns blazing. Pink ball or red cherry no matter what, the Lankans adapted to the conditions and the type of the ball used for the second Test at Dubai very well to outplay Pakistan who had the experience of playing in two night Tests before.

Credit should be given to the support staff for keeping the players super fit throughout the series so that none fell ill or suffered from any serious injury in extremely hot and sometimes humid conditions that sapped the energy out of the players. For Sri Lanka to come out of it unscathed and victorious is in itself an achievement.

The team under the leadership of Dinesh Chandimal who led from the front lifted their playing standards one bar from what they were doing in the recent past to outwit Pakistan. They jelled well together as a team and as the captain described “as one family”.

The yearning and the hunger to come out of the rut and perform well which the team was capable of doing was too great in the Lankan camp and Pakistan was made to feel their wrath at full force.

As the captain pointed out it was not only the players but also the support staff that had the hunger to ensure that the team turned around their fortunes was the one factor that drove each and every individual towards achieving their goal.

There were some outstanding individual performances but overall it was a concerted effort by everyone involved.

On the batting front Dimuth Karunaratne established himself as one of the most reliable openers. His role is to bat as long as possible so that the rest of the team bats around him and builds up partnerships that would give them the required total to bowl against the opposition. In each of the two Tests, Sri Lanka topped over 400 batting first and put Pakistan under pressure. This was lacking in the series against India where Sri Lanka reached 300 only once in six innings.

Chandimal showed his team the way in the first Test by scoring a memorable unbeaten 155 that set the tone for the rest of the series.

The introduction to international cricket of young Sadeera Samarawickrama has now created competition for places in the team. With Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera and Asela Gunaratne set to return after recovering from their injuries the selectors are going to have a challenge selecting future batting line-ups which in a way is a good headache to have.

The presence of young talented players like Samarawickrama (22 years), Kusal Mendis (22) and Niroshan Dickwella (24) has certainly lifted the standards of fielding in the team and promises a bright future for Sri Lanka cricket.

Mendis once again had a rather lean series but he is too good a batsman to fail constantly. He is working out whatever flaws he has with batting coach Hashan Tillakaratne and before long should be back in the runs.

Lahiru Thirimanne was again unfortunate to get injured after just one Test where he did not score many. The expectations from him are high and with the vice-captaincy weighing down on him he needs to make the runs that would guarantee him a permanent place in the team.

Pakistan’s woes with the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath continued as he wove a web around them subjecting them to a 21-run defeat in the first Test at Abu Dhabi by capturing 11 wickets - a performance that took him past 400 Test wickets (the first left-arm spinner to achieve the feat in cricket) and also 100 of those wickets against Pakistan (once again the first bowler to do so against them).

The performances of Herath are legendary and the fact that they are not so well documented like some of the other bowlers in the history of the game is that he is no showman. He does what is required of him with steely efficiency and without much fanfare. His figures prove what a great servant he has been for his nation’s cricket. At 39 he proved his fitness in trying circumstances in the UAE to bowl 107 overs and Sri Lanka cricket may hope and pray that he can continue for a longer period of time.

Along with Herath, his spin partner Dilruwan Perera has proved an ideal foil. Both have complemented each other so that between them they took the most number of Pakistan wickets to fall in the series – 28 out of 40.

The fast bowlers too led by Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Gamage who made his debut in the second Test, did an excellent job to initiate the breakthrough for the team that made the task of Herath and Perera that much easier.

Pakistan for their part showed that their batting was not steady following the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan and they were still in the midst of searching for their successors. The Sri Lankan batsmen’s ability to tame the leg spin of Yasir Shah was one of the turning points in the series. Although Yasir finished with 16 wickets that was as many as Herath he was made to work really hard for them sending down 152 overs – 45 more than Herath. An unfit Mohammad Amir also did not help in Pakistan’s cause capturing a solitary wicket for 164 runs.

Sri Lanka can draw a lot of confidence from the win against Pakistan when they front up with India again next month. India is not easy to beat at home but if Sri Lanka do their homework and have learnt their lessons from the last series against them who knows the tables can be turned. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

 


 

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