Pakistan versus Sri Lanka: Victory or disgrace?

Published: August 8, 2014
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The scorecard suggests that either the pitch is absolutely flat or Pakistan has bowled pretty poorly. The latter seems more likely. PHOTO: AFP

The scorecard suggests that either the pitch is absolutely flat or Pakistan has bowled pretty poorly. The latter seems more likely. PHOTO: AFP Younus’s batting was typical of his style―those intricate cover drives, dancing down the track with spinners and toying with them, and the amazing shots. PHOTO: AFP

The relentless, brilliant and energetic Younus Khan played a heroic knock of 177 on day one of the first Test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and simultaneously completed his 24th Test hundred. The Pakistani side was at a dismal 53 runs with a loss of three wickets before Younus took charge and saved his team from facing a terrible defeat.

Pakistan needed a solid inning, in order to win this Test series, and Younus made sure of that by giving a strong target to the host team. Pakistan ended up posting 451 on the scoreboard, which, by the way, is their second highest first-innings total for a Test match in eight years. Statistics reveal that teams that have previously scored 250 or more in a single inning have rarely lost on Galle’s ground.

Younis Khan (R) raises his bat and helmet in celebration after scoring 150 runs as teammate Sarfraz Ahmed looks on during the second day of the opening Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium. Photo: AFP

Younus’s batting was typical of his style―those intricate cover drives, dancing down the track with spinners and toying with them, and the amazing shots. Yes, his batting made everyone realise that the veteran player is still very much in the game. He was supported by Asad Shafiq during the inning; Shafiq too scored a fine fifty. Sarfraz Ahmed also played well and Abdur Rehman got important runs towards the end. For the batting unit, this was a splendid performance.

However, today, during Sri Lanka’s innings, the Pakistani bowling side doesn’t seem to be doing so well. Sri Lanka stands at 252/2 while day three is still underway – Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene not out. We should keep in mind that this is Jayawardene’s last Test series, so he will want to make it a memorable one by winning the series.

Batsman Khurram Manzoor (L) runs between the wickets as Sri Lankan cricketer Shaminda Eranga (R) looks on during the first day of the opening Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on August 6, 2014. Photo: AFP

The scorecard suggests that either the pitch is absolutely flat or Pakistan has bowled pretty poorly. The latter seems more likely because as far as the pitch goes, the Sri Lankan side had a blast with it in Pakistan’s first innings. We saw Rangana Herath bowl superbly, fast bowlers got swing and decent bounce, and other spinners performed fairly well too.

The pitch isn’t the problem―the players are.

Except for Junaid Khan, who particularly bowled well, and Saeed Ajmal, who almost got Sangakkara but the umpire’s decision saved him, the overall bowling side has not been able to portray anything great in their performance so far.

Pakistan’s Junaid Khan (R) celebrates with team mates after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Upul Tharanga (not pictured) during the second day of their first test cricket match in Galle August 7, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Pakistan simply can’t afford to lose this series; a defeat would put Pakistan at number six on the Test teams list, which will be both tragic and shameful. On the other hand, the match is also crucial for Sri Lanka as the team has already faced a disastrous defeat at the hands of the South Africans and they would not want to see the same fate at their home ground again.

Pakistan needs to keep playing well to win the series. The batting side has done its share; now it’s time for the bowlers to rise to the occasion and perform their part. Pakistan can only dismiss Sri Lanka if they get Sangakkara and Jayawardene out early―which does not seem likely right now.

Mahela Jayawardene. Photo: Reuters

Pakistan’s pace bowling might not be the same anymore but it is still enough to help us win. I wouldn’t mind Misbah being a bit extra aggressive. Perhaps they can use Mohammad Talha on an attacking line-up while Ajmal works his magic with his spin. Strong bowling from Rehman might help too. And Junaid’s reverse-swing can be a game changer if used wisely.

Currently, the match has been delayed due to rain. There are chances that the match might ultimately end up as a draw. But fans can hope for the best. Interestingly, the last ten series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka haven’t been drawn. Both teams will be desperate to win the series. Whatever unfolds ahead, one thing is for sure: this series is going to be mind-blowing!

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Ali Bhurgri

Ali Bhurgri

A law student who loves cricket and likes to scribble sometimes. He tweets as @Cric_liebhabe (twitter.com/Cric_Liebhabe)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.