The most awaited series of the year for Pakistani and Sri Lankan cricket fans started off in extreme hot weather conditions at the Abu Dhabi Sports Complex. The hosts were all set to challenge the visitors at a neutral venue in their home series away from home. The series started off with a Test match in Abu Dhabi with two more Test matches scheduled in Dubai and Sharjah, respectively, five One Day International matches, and one Twenty20 match.
The first day of the Test match played on 18th of October was solely for the hosts making it difficult for visitors to cope up in hot weather conditions. Pakistan won the toss and chose to field with a bunch of talented and aspiring bowlers coming in the field and bowling with aggression and passion. As a result, Sri Lanka lost all 10 wickets on the very first day of the Test match, scoring 197 runs only.
Pakistan dominated on day one with Junaid Khan being the star of the show after taking 5 wickets for just 37 runs. The youngster has certainly proven to be an asset for Pakistan. Along with Junaid Khan, the magical bowling of Umar Gul added weight to the bowling side of Pakistan. Although, Gul made his comeback after a long rest, his bowling did not appear rusty. Consequently, Gul was successful in taking two decisive wickets of Paranavitana and Lakmal. Also, Saeed Ajmal can not be forgotten when it comes to wicket taking, and thus, his name should also be mentioned in the list of wicket takers. Aizaz Cheema and Mohammad Hafeez also bowled pretty well. In fact, Cheema’s aggressive bowling was one of the factors that kept the Sri Lankan team under pressure throughout the first innings.
An insufficient total of 197 runs in the first innings was not at all a difficult target for the Pakistani batsmen. The innings started with Mohammad Hafeez scoring 75 runs from just 127 balls with the maximum number of fours and the only six hit during the match. Along with him, Taufeeq Umar surprised all by scoring his first ever double century and including Pakistan’s name in the list of cricketers scoring double centuries after 1992. Taufeeq Umar could have continued playing after scoring a double century if he had not been run out because of Asad Shafiq’s misjudgement. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq also emerged as fair players giving Pakistan a total of 511 for 6 wickets before the Captain declared the score for the Sri Lankan’s to chase in the second innings. At the field, everything seemed perfect. The fielders were efficient, especially Mohammad Hafeez, who took two crucial catches in the first innings. The rest effectively contributed in stopping singles and boundaries.
At the end of the first innings, the game belonged solely to Pakistan. However, it is true that the end result should never be calculated after the first innings and one should recognize the fact that the result of Test matches can never be predicted. The second innings reversed the game. The Sri Lankan team came back from the dressing room with ultimate aggression on Day 3, whereas, the Pakistani team looked comparatively relaxed.
Lack of aggression resulted in the fielders being exceedingly sloppy and causing them to drop five easy catches. Two of the catches were dropped by Mohammad Hafeez in the slip, while Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and Younis Khan accompanied Hafeez in this catch-dropping crime. The reason for the misfield was certainly the carelessness. Also, it seemed the Captain misjudged the game by keeping Hafeez in the slip. Khan and Hafeez were fielding in the slip with both thinking that the other might just get away with any catch whatsoever. The fielders were clearly under the scanner after their weary fielding as Mohsin Khan, the interim coach, was furious by the end of the day.
It seemed that the day, or may I say, the second innings, was unlucky for the hosts. Things did not click and made Pakistan lose all possible hope of winning the match, yet the bowlers tried every possible route to keep the visitors under pressure. However, the dangerous batting of Sangakkara put the hosts under pressure. In addition, the dropping of catches worked like a good luck charm for the Srilankan batsmen who managed to chase the trail and then lead with 170 runs. Sangakkara who had scored only 2 runs in the first innings scored a double century in the second. In the end, the match was drawn due to Sangakkara’s double ton. As a result, the Srilankan team played a lot of overs leaving no chance for the Pakistani team to chase the target. On the first day, the visitors scored only 197 runs from around 75 overs and about 140 additional overs in the second innings, where as, Pakistan batted for 100 overs in the entire match.
The lack of enthusiasm in Pakistani bowlers affected their performance in the second innings. Nevertheless, Umar Gul still managed to get the highest number of wickets in the match. What came a surprise in the second innings, however, was Azhar Ali’s bowling. Azhar Ali took his first ever wicket in Test cricket, and that too of Sangakkara. This wicket finally gave Pakistan a much needed breakthrough. The visitors gave a target of 170 runs from 21 overs to the hosts. It almost came across as a Twenty20 match in the end, though the Twenty20 state of mind cannot take over a Test match.
The Pakistani players looked tired on Day 5 and the pitch was all rusty. There was no Twenty20 element and the target was extremely difficult for the openers to achieve. Though Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar did try hard, it was just not possible to win the match by playing a limited over game.
The match ended in a draw with both teams shaking hands and showing hospitality to each other. This gesture turned out to be one positive aspect of the match. The Man of the Match was Kumar Sangakkara because of his terrific batting, while Junaid Khan, Taufeeq Umar and Mohammad Hafeez were awarded for Sweety and Salty Performance, Best Performance and Maximum Number of Sixes, respectively.
The match would have solely been in Pakistan’s favor if the team had been well-organized in the field during the second innings. To the utmost surprise of many, was the fact that these were the same fielders who thrived in Zimbabwe as well as in the first innings, but it is also true that luck plays an important role.
At the moment, we can only hope that this Test match has taught the Pakistani team a lesson and that they come back again with a myriad of enthusiasm, aggression and passion.