Being a cricket fanatic, I guess I still can’t get over the terrific match. Those who are not following this series are definitely missing out on some interesting piece of cricket. The visitors and the hosts came head-to-head for the second time. However, this time, the game was solely in favor of the hosts. Team Pakistan moved forward with a different mindset. The players were ready for every challenge after their not-so-remarkable performance in the 1st Test match. They had surely learnt a lesson from the previous game and came back with more aggression, passion, and certainly, patience. The first and the second innings were truly for the hosts. The eleven players worked together as a team to accomplish the 9-wicket victory.
Starting with Day 1, Tillakaratne Dilshan won the toss for his team and chose to bat first. However, the Sri Lankan Captain certainly misread the pitch. The pitch was flat and was expected to be a treat for spinners. As a result, the Pakistani team bowled them out cheaply and without any flaws for just 239 runs. Misbah-ul-Haq took some good catches, though there were some flaws in the field. Taufeeq Umar missed a chance to get Kumar Sangakkara over mid-wicket and there was a customary catch-drop by Mohammad Hafeez. Hafeez is certainly going under the scanner after this. However, the terrific bowling of Umar Gul overshadowed these mistakes. Gul bowled magnificently getting 3 wickets for just 78 runs. Junaid Khan, Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal accompanied Gul to challenge Sri Lanka. Abdur Rehman is certainly an intelligent choice made by the selectors.
Sri Lanka only managing to score 239 runs was no big deal for Pakistan in the first innings. The Captain, Misbah, was completely confident that along with his bowling side, the batting side would help him create something big out of this match, but things did not go as expected when the young Prasad from Sri Lankan team took the openers very conveniently with Mohammad Hafeez scoring only 33 runs and Taufeeq Umar only managing to score 27 runs. However, things turned in our favor again when Azhar Ali and Younis Khan managed to get a lead. After a long wait, Azhar Ali who has scored more than 1000 runs in Test cricket scored his maiden century adding a considerable amount of runs to the total of 403. This score, though not much, was still enough to create pressure on the visitors.
Till Day 3, Pakistan continued to bat, scoring more and more runs. To the surprise of many people, it was Asad Shafiq who came forward as a huge challenge to the Sri Lankans. Asad, along with Adnan Akmal, continued to bat and scored a total of 393 runs. The fall of wickets till then was 6, but later, the tail-enders fell down cheaply ending the first innings with a total score of 403.
The Sri Lankan team had to face a trail and come up with a lead again to create pressure on Pakistan just like they did in Abu Dhabi. The second innings started off steadily for Sri Lanka. It was expected that they might score a good total. On the other side, Misbah was giving a chance to the spinners just to keep the game going. The seam bowlers were given some rest to help them perform well the next morning. Therefore, the new ball was surprisingly given to Mohammad Hafeez. Hafeez started off his overs, gave a couple of clever flights and BANG! Mohammad Hafeez received his first breakthrough and the first wicket in the tournament. It was Thirimanne who fell into the trap of Hafeez. The rest of the evening progressed slowly with Sangakkara and Paranavitana batting. The Sri Lankan team was no doubt creating a pressure on the Pakistanis and this was making Misbah reanalyze the match. Nevertheless, the sunshine of Day 4 was definitely with Pakistan.
Moving on to Day 4, I guess Misbah told his team mates that he wanted a break on Sunday and asked them to finish the game on Day 4 and not extend it to Day 5. Well, that is exactly what happened. Day 4 was completely emerging in favor of Pakistan. At the end of Day 3, Mohammad Hafeez said, ‘The roughness in the pitch will help the spinners turn the ball a lot. Me, Ajmal Bhai and Manna Bhai (referring to Abdur Rehman) will be discussing tactics. We are hoping to bowl Sri Lanka out cheaply.’ It seems they seriously discussed these tactics.
The spinners were ruling on Day 4, especially Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal never appears to be out of form; in fact, his aggression makes him more dangerous. Ajmal was getting impatient and his impatience gifted him with 5 wickets for 68 runs only. A rather amusing moment happened when Ajmal took Rangana Herath’s wicket and told him ‘jao’ which means ‘leave’. The happiness was all over Ajmal when he completed his 5-wicket bowling and Sri Lankans were all out for 257 runs, giving Pakistan a target of 94 runs.
The evening was making headway with 23 minimum overs remaining. People were wondering if Pakistan would get these 94 runs within 23 overs or the match would move on to Day 5. It was then that the Superman Hafeez returned. Coming back with his leg-guards on, Hafeez certainly wanted a day off. He wanted to finish this not-so-difficult chase within minimum overs. He played aggressively, scored fours and sixes and managed to get a substantial score of 59 runs from just 64 balls remaining. Azhar Ali accompanied him in the chase, while Taufeeq Umar was taken away by Rangana Herat. The end was great. Pakistan won the match by 9 wickets, taking the series score to 1-0. The Man of the Match was awarded to Saeed Ajmal.
Unquestionably, the match winner is the whole team of 11 men. They were terrific with the ball as well as the bat and in the field.
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