Sri Lanka emphatically defeated Pakistan as they successfully defended 135 runs to dismiss the home side for 114. After the decimation they suffered against India, this is a welcome change of events for a team that has been struggling.
Pakistan should be frustrated for not being able to chase a sub-150 score, regardless of the pitch conditions. They batted well in the first innings, scoring 422, but significantly deteriorated as the game progressed.
One Test remains to be played, and Sri Lanka have taken the lead. Can Pakistan level the series, or will Sri Lanka win another away from home?
Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Usman Salahuddin, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Abbas, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Wahab Riaz
Dinesh Chandimal (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage
Where the Teams Stand
When Pakistan lost the first Test, coach Mickey Arthur was quick to point out losing Azhar Ali early in the chase as a prime reason behind the loss. Is his team this reliant on one batsman to chase a score of 136? Even high school cricket teams have greater depth in their batting if that is the case. The first innings paints a very different picture, with the entire batting lineup contributing to produce the score of 422 and top three all crossing 50, followed by 39,28, 76 in the lineup from Shafiq, Azam, and Sohail respectively.
In the second innings, however, after being reduced to 36-5, they did well to even reach 114. The side had no answers for Herath, who took 11 wickets in the match and has now taken the wicket of Ali on all 7 occasions that the two have played against each other.
One of the main reasons this fixture was bound to be an interesting one was the contest between Pakistan’s bowling and Sri Lanka’s batting. Initially, the bowling seemed to win, with Sri Lanka stumbling at 61-3, but then Chandimal produced a brilliant 155* to carry his team through.
Things improved in the second innings as the pitch became more conducive to spin. Yasir Shah was particularly good with the ball, taking 8 wickets throughout the match. Mohammad Abbas took 5 himself, becoming the second most successful Pakistani bowler of the match.
Pakistan did a lot of things right in the first match, something they need to continue doing in the next, however, they need to be less reliant on Ali to break them out of jail when in trouble with the bat, and on Yasir Shah with the ball.
At long last, Sri Lanka won an international match, and they deserved it after some inspired performances from Chandimal and Herath, with Dickwella being another understated name from the first Test. There are a few concerns regarding their performance despite the victory, ones that need immediate addressing lest they are exposed in the second Test.
One of the key differences between their batting and Pakistan’s batting is that four batsmen set up the first innings score for the Sri Lankans. The number can be seen as high as seven for their rivals. The Sri Lankans need a more fair distribution of runs amongst their top batsmen. This is where Angelo Mathews is crucial for the Sri Lankans. He will miss the second Test as well after failing to recover from his injury. A slightly fragile top order has only one stabilising batsman in the middle, which is skipper Chandimal. Mathews also filled that role down the order, but his absence puts the onus on the top order to get Sri Lanka off to a stable start.
That seven Pakistani batsmen contributed to the main score in a marked way implies a plethora of healthy partnerships for the opposition. Sri Lanka failed to apply much pressure on the batsmen with their wicket taking as one batsman after another came and scored enough runs to keep the scoreboard ticking. This is exactly what they managed successfully in the second innings, and it won them the match.
Pakistan’s batting order is not the most stable in the world and is highly susceptible to failure under pressure if the Sri Lankans can take early wickets. Their relative inexperience is an Achilles Heel the visitors must capitalise on if they wish to win the second Test.
Sri Lanka win.
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