Colombo: For a year and a half after Muttiah Muralitharan`s retirement, every match Sri Lanka played was accompanied by questions about their ability to be a top Test nation in the absence of the game`s greatest wicket-taker. Those questions will be less frequent after Sri Lanka completed their third Test victory in five matches, and their largest win over Pakistan on the fourth day in Galle. The result also snapped Pakistan`s winning streak, which included a 3-0 blanking of world No. 1 England, at five Tests.
It wasn`t one-way traffic on Monday, as it had been on the three previous days as Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan defied Sri Lanka for nearly two sessions. Younis gave another demonstration of his fourth-innings mastery, while Shafiq once again showed his appetite for a scrap, as he had in his two previous Tests, against England. Their resistance stretched the game to the final minutes of the fourth day, but Sri Lanka were never in any serious danger, remaining firmly in control all through.
Pakistan`s only casualty in the morning was the nightwatchman Saeed Ajmal, run-out in the second over of the day after a direct hit by Suraj Randiv from cover. An early finish to the game looked on the cards when Younis started to walk off after seemingly holing out to mid-off, but there was some doubt over whether Tillakaratne Dilshan had got his fingers under the ball as he took a low catch. It was hard to tell from the replays, and Younis was given the benefit of the doubt.
The only other clear-cut chance in the session for Pakistan was when Kumar Sangakkara put down a tough catch at midwicket off Shafiq ten minutes before lunch. There were a few mild lbw appeals, and Shafiq`s french-cut for four early in his innings, but for the most part, Younis and Shafiq were more comfortable than any other Pakistan pair has been this match.
They didn`t go into a defensive shell, looking to score even though the target was well out of sight. Younis used the sweep, mostly the conventional version but on one occasion the reverse as well. Shafiq capitalised on the deliveries bowled on his pads, and also pulled out some hard-hit lofted shots as Sri Lanka`s bowlers were made to wait for a breakthrough longer than they have had all match.
The pattern continued after lunch as well, as the pair negated the generally slow spin easily. Both batsmen confidently used their feet against spin, and were quick to put away the loose deliveries. Sri Lanka`s fast bowlers weren`t at their best, not testing the batsmen enough and being inconsistent with their lines, while the spinners patiently plugged away. The slow bowlers managed to find a few edges which didn`t carry to slip on several occasions.
As the session progressed, it seemed Sri Lanka`s best hope of a wicket would be once the new ball was taken, but Herath got one to spin off the pitch with pace, and Shafiq nicked it through to slip, via the wicketkeeper`s gloves, to fall for 80.
Younis went on to become the first Pakistan batsman to complete 1000 runs in the fourth innings, but he couldn`t become the first man to score five centuries in the fourth innings of a Test. Sri Lanka hadn`t needed to wait for the second new ball to break the Younis-Shafiq stand but when they did take it, they got the big wicket of Younis in the very first over. Nuwan Kulasekara, who has been a huge threat with the new ball, got one delivery to hold its line, and not dip in as his deliveries usually do, causing a faint Younis nick to the keeper.
With those two strikes, Sri Lanka were in sniffing distance of a win. Debutant Mohammad Ayub, the last of the specialist batsmen, hung around for an hour and a half before becoming fast bowler`s Nuwan Pradeep first Test victim.
In a disappointing match for Pakistan, one of the bright spots for them was the wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal. Not only was he competent behind the stumps, he showed promise with the bat as well, besides conveying a sense of enjoying the game. He battled for an unbeaten 40, shielding the tail from the strike as much as he could, but couldn`t take the game into a fifth day as Sri Lanka`s spinners completed the job a few minutes before stumps.
BDST: 1940 HRS, June 25, 2012
All rights reserved. Sale, redistribution or reproduction of information/photos/illustrations/video/audio contents on this website in any form without prior permission from banglanews24.com are strictly prohibited and liable to legal action.