The end of the second Test came as an anti-climax here on Wednesday with Pakistan coasting to a comfortable eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka to win the series and also keep their proud record intact of not having lost a Test in this country since 1986.
Imran Farhat (65) and Younis Khan (73 not out) stroked contrasting half-centuries and forged together a crucial second-wicket stand of 114 runs while effectively negotiating with Sri Lankaâ€™s main threat â€” off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, to turn what could have been a demanding run-chase into a comfortable one.
Pakistanâ€™s comfortable cruise in chasing 183 runs for victory on the third day was a big turnaround from the first two days of fascinating cricket when 28 wickets went down including 20 on Tuesday.
Pakistan pacer Mohammad Asif deservedly won the man of the match award for his figures of 11-71, which are the best figures recorded by a visiting bowler at the Asgiriya Stadium here. Asifâ€™s superb figures set up Pakistanâ€™s third series win in Sri Lanka.
He was instrumental in setting up the win after Sri Lanka were bowled out for 73 in their second innings on the first ball this morning with Sanath Jayasuriya unable to bat due to his finger injury.
The 73 runs is Sri Lankaâ€™s second lowest total in Test cricket after the 71 also against Pakistan at this venue in 1994 when Waqar Younis took 11 wickets.
Sri Lanka also suffered their ninth defeat at this venue in 19 matches while for Pakistan it was their third successive Test series win following the victories over England and India at home and before that in 2005 Pakistan had drawn their away series in India and the West Indies.
Pakistan, under the captaincy of Inzamam-ul-Haq, has now won six of their last 13 Tests since 2005.
Abdul Razzaq bowled the wicket-taking ball having Muttiah Muralitharan caught by Umar Gul at mid-off for a duck to leave his team the task of getting 183 runs on a pitch that strangely changed its character today becoming slower and that allowed time to the batsmen to negotiate with the little sideways movement and the bounce present in the track.
After the first two days when the seamers had moved ball alarmingly and the spinners got appreciable turn, the pitch played well although there were several occasions when the Pakistani batsmen played and missed and several edges fell short of the slip cordon.
But in final count, Jayawardene would be disappointed with the performances of his pacers particularly Farveez Maharoof who went for 52 in 10 overs when Sri Lanka needed some quick wickets with the new ball. Even the pintsized Lasith Malinga proved expensive. But the big setback for the hosts was that their champion off-spinner Murali, whom they were banking on to defend the low total, was not as threatening as he was in the first innings when he took 5 for 39.
He even had to resort to switching ends and giving air to the ball to get sharp turn but Imran and Younis were equal to the task and by the time Murali was introduced into the attack in the 14th over, Pakistan had already raced to 57 for one thanks to Farhat and Kamran Akmal who scored 24 from 26 balls with five fours.
Kamran, used as a makeshift opener in place of the indisposed Shoaib Malik, forced the pace with Imran and given that Pakistan was chasing a small total that put the hosts on the backfoot.
But they had some close shaves and played some streaky shots that did nothing to soothe the nerves of either side; They scored quickly enough to worry Sri Lanka but with enough streakiness, enough edginess to also worry their own side.
Once Kamran fell, caught by Kumar Sangakkara who took a brilliant one-handed catch to his right off Malinga, Younis strode in and played beautifully to steady the ship starting off with two stunning straight drives off Maharoof.
Producing his best form of the tour, the vice-captain displayed some vicious cuts and flowing drives as Pakistan moved to a comfortable 90-1 at lunch although in the session Maharoof thought he brushed the edge of Imranâ€™s bat in the seventh over and Muralitharan thought he trapped him at least twice just before lunch, all three denied.
On resumption the left-handed Imran, who has always had a vast repertoire of strokes, played some sumptuous strokes in unleashing four quick boundaries, one a superb cover drive coming off Murali and three in one over from Malinga.
Younis also played a cracking cut shot off Malinga to point to allow Pakistan to hit five fours in 18 balls and get the perfect start after lunch and with the floodgates opened one could already see the Sri Lankan shoulders drooping.
The pair added 62 runs under ten overs after lunch and the match was effectively over.
Imran raced to his seventh half-century from 95 balls with nine fours before he finally fell caught in the slips by Mahela Jayawardene off Nuwan Kulasekera for 65 after having shared a 163-ball stand with Younis.
Sidelined for some time now, Imran clearly has vast potential provided he learns to improve his shot selection and build on good starts.
Younis, who hit his 14th half-century with his total runs coming from 98 balls with 12 fours while Mohammad Yousuf remained unbeaten on 14 runs as he played the winning stroke, a flowing drive to mid-wicket of Malinga.
Surprisingly, Sri Lanka used leg-spinner Malinga Bandara for just two overs in the match that cost him 15 runs in the afternoon. It was the sort of captaincy karakiri that if done by the Pakistan skipper would have created a din in the media.
Source: The NewsMore on:Mohammad Asif, Pakistan, Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2006, Younis Khan
Technorati Tags: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Muralitharan
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2006 and is filed under General.
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