We have witnessed so many one-sided Tests in the recent times that the ongoing contests between Sri Lanka and Pakistan are making us fall in love with them, yet again. Both, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, had been going through a rough patch prior to this series; it seems like they have only helped each other to bring the best out of them. This is not the first time that these two are playing a nail-biting match; the ICC must consider organising their bilateral Test series more often, just to keep the fire alive in Test cricket.
On Day three of the second Test, underway in Dubai, 15 wickets fell followed by 10 wickets falling in the penultimate day. Both the team have had their ups and downs but every single time, they made a successful fightback. Sri Lanka’s downfall was massive; after they piled up 482 runs in the first innings, they were drearily bowled out for 96 runs in the second innings and set Pakistan a target of 317 runs, with almost two days to go in the Test. Co-incidentally, Sri Lanka’s innings difference 386 (482 and 96) is the largest in their Test history toppling 383 vs Australia in 1992 (547 & 164).
Just before tea, Sri Lanka drew first blood when debutant Lahiru Gamage removed Pakistan opener Sami Aslam in the third over itself. The teams took the team break when Pakistan was 15 for 1. The touring party, who still had the scars of the pathetic show with the bat, created their own moments in the Test in the twilight session just before the dinner break. The all-rounder Dilruwan Perera claimed three wickets inside 10 balls to leave Pakistan stumbling at 62 for 5 in the session break.
Chasing 136 in Abu Dhabi, which seemed like an un-loseable one for a team like Pakistan, they had lost by 21 runs. Hence, it was difficult to imagine Pakistan chase down 317 runs from 62 for 5. However, what followed next in the final session of the fourth day once again altered the picture completely, leaving Sri Lanka frustrated and would have given a sigh of relief to Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, who possess quite strong facial expressions and does not hide when he is unhappy with the side.
In the last seven innings, Pakistan Captain has crossed the 20s just twice and both the instances have been when he scored a half-century. Struggling to find the right form, when Sarfraz Ahmed came out to bat on Day four, not many would have thought that he would stick around like never before. He had another experienced man, Asad Shafiq, on the other end and the duo ensured Pakistan did not lose another wicket by stumps of the fourth day. They displayed some brilliant and gutsy batting as they put up a record sixth-wicket partnership against Sri Lanka of 146* runs.
It was Sarfraz who began the aggressive innings first as Asad just gave him the support. After two failed attempts, Sarfraz had finally completed a flat sweep off Rangana Herath to the backward square leg fence, before he took on Dilruwan through point a few overs later. He majorly attacked the leg side and he would go on to score only two more boundaries in the day. Meanwhile, when Asad joined the party, he became the more proactive figure in the partnership.
Asad took 26 balls to release his first boundary and that was followed by regular 1s, 2s and sometimes even 3s. He hardly left any area unconquered – Mid-wicket, fine leg, long-on – these were the favourite areas among others from where the productive and regular run flow happened.
When an exasperated Sri Lankan Captain Dinesh Chandimal made field changes, that backfired and the run flow became even more with an ease. Between 50th and 65th overs, Asad and Sarfraz surpassed their respective half-centuries and there was nothing the touring party could do to stop them. The tormentor from the Abu Dhabi Test, Herath, was not only wicket-less, his spin was smarty defused by the pair. The fourth-day pitch was tattered but there was time for the track to get Herath-style.
When the final day begins, Sri Lanka will hope the pitch becomes a minefield in no time so that Herath, who became the first off-spinner to claim 400 Test wickets in the previous Test, unleashes himself on the Pakistani duo. Sri Lanka, who are five wickets away from a victory, while Pakistan need another 119 runs, Sri Lanka desperately need Herath to step up. It is always the batting side that is more affected with the over night’s break but that is not a written rule or something, If Sri Lanka manage to pull off a thriller victory here, they will become the first-ever side to whitewash Pakistan in Tests in the UAE.