Dilruwan Perera led the way as Sri Lanka ended Pakistan’s excellent record in the United Arab Emirates by winning the second and final Test in Dubai by 68 runs on the final day on Tuesday (October 10), thereby blanking their opponents 2-0 in the series.
The fifth day started with Pakistan needing 119 runs, while Sri Lanka only needed to break the stubborn sixth-wicket stand between Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed. It went the way of the visiting side in the end, as the Pakistani chase of 317 got over at 248.
The Sri Lankans came close in the initial few overs, but it finally took Perera to break through, when Sarfraz, the captain, miscued a sweep and was smartly caught at deep fine-leg by Nuwan Pradeep after scoring 68.
Although Shafiq completed his 11th Test century, the departure of his partner also had a negative effect on him and he too fell not much later after scoring 112. It was a fighting knock, but he once again failed to help his team cross the line, just like in Brisbane last December, where his 137 went in vain as Pakistan lost the Test by 39 runs after being set a daunting 490-run target.
Perera finished with 5 for 98 to prove his worth once again, while Rangana Herath brought the winning wicket when Wahab Riaz holed out at extra cover with Dinesh Chandimal taking the catch.
There is a common impression around these parts that Pakistan took Sri Lanka lightly after they were whitewashed 3-0 by India at home recently. On the field, Pakistan tried out two new openers – Sami Aslam and Shan Masood – who were both shaky and were left thoroughly exposed. The batting order was also tinkered with, and a single frontline spinner – unwise in the UAE conditions – was fielded.
All of that added up to Pakistan’s first series defeat in ten outings in the UAE, their home since being forced to play away from their country following the attacks on the Sri Lankan team in 2009.
This was also Pakistan’s first home Test series defeat since losing to South Africa 1-0 in 2007, and only their second ‘home’ series whitewash ever – they had lost 3-0 to Australia in 2002, a series also played on neutral venues in Sri Lanka and the UAE.
For Chandimal, the Sri Lanka captain, it was the ideal comeback after the India setback. “We are over the moon,” he said after the game. “This is a complete team performance as everyone put his heart and soul in the practice sessions and the results are evident.
“We had lost a tough series against India but we learnt a lot from it and the selectors kept faith in the players. The boys executed the game plan really well in this series. We knew we need one of the two from Shafiq and Sarfraz and when we got that wicket we were sure that Dilruwan and Rangana would do the job.”
Pakistan did start the final day on a positive and lucky note.
The first two overs produced 15 runs but in the fourth, Sarfraz was lucky to survive a stumping appeal. At the other end, Shafiq reached his century with a paddle-swept single off Perera but in the next Perera over, he got a reprieve when Dimuth Karunaratne failed to hold on to a low edge in the slips.
But Pakistan’s luck finally ran out when Sarfraz’s sweep went up, and the captain trudged back after a 173-run stand, with 92 still needed. Once he fell in the 79th over, the resistance slowly faded, the last six wickets falling within 12 overs for the addition of 23 more runs.
The Sri Lankan victory was always the likeliest result after Pakistan started their run chase sloppily on the fourth day when they slipped to 52 for 5, with Perera picking up three of his five wickets.
Sarfraz, in his first series as Test captain, was visibly upset over the outcome. “We came close in both matches but could not finish,” he rued. “We haven’t played good cricket and that’s why we have lost the series. Our preparations were fine, we just missed long innings and big partnerships. Have to give credit to their spinners too, especially Herath.”