Monday, 13 January 2014 00:00
Coast to impressive 9-wicket victory against Pakistan as Lakmal, openers shine
ESPNCricinfo: It had rained for most of the night in Dubai and the floodlights were switched on to brighten a gloomy morning, but there were no alarms for Sri Lanka once play began on time on the fifth day. They won this Test of attrition by bowling clinically to polish off the Pakistan tail, and then their openers guarded against any slip-ups in a chase of 137 by playing watchfully and taking liberties only after the contest had been killed. The weather was Sri Lanka’s only concern, as clouds gathered and dispersed through the day, but there was not a drop of rain and the winning runs were scored in sunshine.
The nine-wicket victory vindicated Angelo Mathews’ unprecedented decision at the toss - he was the only captain to want to bowl first in six Tests at this venue. It also added weight to the argument for batting second in Dubai; teams that did so have won four out of six matches. The pitch had been at its best for the bowlers on day one, when Sri Lanka’s attack used the considerable seam movement and bounce on offer to dismiss Pakistan for 165 and lay the groundwork for success. Over the next few days, the surface flattened out and got slower, and taking wickets called for hard toil.
Sri Lanka had only three second-innings wickets to take on the final morning, but Pakistan’s lead was 107 and had Sarfraz Ahmed replicated his resistance of the fourth evening, the chase could have got tricky.
Suranga Lakmal ensured they were not frustrated, taking the remaining wickets to achieve career-best figures and dismiss Pakistan for 359.
Sarfraz, who had scored his maiden Test fifty, could add only four to his overnight score of 70. Lakmal bowled him with a delivery that reverse-swung sharply from far outside off stump to find the gap between bat and pad.
Saeed Ajmal and Rahat Ali added 20 runs for the ninth wicket, but Lakmal soon got a delivery to seam away from Rahat and the batsman’s poke outside off resulted in an outside edge. Prasanna Jayawardene claimed his ninth dismissal of the match - equalling Amal Silva’s Sri Lankan record.
The end came early in the second hour of the day, when Lakmal swung a yorker on to Ajmal’s boot and on to the stumps. Ajmal hobbled off in pain and did not take the field at the start of Sri Lanka’s chase.
By the time Ajmal came on to bowl in the 12th over of the chase, Sri Lanka’s openers had added 23 runs. Pakistan opened with the offspinner Mohammad Hafeez and Junaid Khan, and they began the defence with three consecutive maidens.
Dimuth Karunaratne then cut and drove Hafeez for two boundaries in three balls, and drove Rahat fluently down the ground. Between those shots, he and Kaushal Silva blocked solidly.
There were few alarms for the openers in the short period before lunch but Sri Lanka’s run rate was just above two an over and, as clouds gathered, rain was their foremost problem. The second - and final - session of the day, however, began under clearing skies.
A few deliveries from Junaid Khan kept low but the slowness of the surface allowed the batsmen to play with without problems. Silva charged and hit Ajmal to long-on and pulled Junaid to deep midwicket to bring up the 50-partnership in 20.2 overs. Pakistan could have broken it minutes later but Asad Shafiq put Silva down at cover, off Ajmal.
Silva scored his second fifty of the Test and Karunaratne brought up the third of his career, and their 124-run partnership was the first century stand between Sri Lanka’s openers since June 2011. Their raw openers had completed what their raw seamers had started on day one. It was Sri Lanka’s first away win since December 2011 and their first away win against Pakistan since October 2004.