After an awe-inspiring win in the series opener at Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka romped home to another victory at Dubai and whitewashed Pakistan in a two-match Test series. They are now the first team to clean sweep Pakistan in the UAE.
Prior to the start of the Test series, one could have crystal glazed and see Pakistan winning this series with ease, but some incredible performances by the underdogs saw them scripting history and unfold a new chapter in their Test journey.
From Underdogs to Champions! Not many gave Sri Lanka a chance to even put up a fight leave alone winning the series. They were the underdogs while Pakistan were clear favourites going into the series. They were coming fresh from a 3-0 whitewash against India at home, their confidence was shattered, they had a huge barrier to overcome and restart.
Sri Lanka does not boast of an inspiring record on away venues. In fact, if Test series against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are not taken into consideration, then this is only the third occasion, where Sri Lanka have beaten a team twice in a series overseas. It’s a massive achievement for a team, who was thrashed by India at home just a few weeks back.
The last time Sri Lanka won an away Test series against a top Test side was way back in 2014, which came against England. Since then, they have played five Test series overseas, two in New Zealand and one each in England, South Africa and Zimbabwe. And have only managed to beat Zimbabwe.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have been unbeaten in UAE for last 15 years, the last time they lost a series in UAE was way back in 2002 against Australia. Since then, Pakistan have locked horns with some big guns in the UAE, but not lost a series. And then comes a team, which is going through a rebuilding phase and puts a break on all the mind-boggling records that Pakistan possess.
The Abu Dhabi Test saw a massive turnaround in the fourth innings, where Herath wreaked havoc with the ball and carried his team over the line with his will left-arm spin. In the first innings, Sri Lanka did well in posting 419 runs on the board riding on Dinesh Chandimal’s magnificent ton and valuable contributions from Karunaratne, Dickwella and Perera. Their bowling did well in restricting Pakistan to 422, but a dramatic batting collapse By Sri Lanka in the second innings saw the hosts chasing a modest target of 136.
Herath and Perera spun a series of web around Pakistani batsmen to bowl them out for 114 and win the game by a whisker. This was also the lowest fourth-innings total that Sri Lanka defended. Many thought Pakistan just had a poor day on the field and a comeback is certainly on the cards at Abu Dhabi, but it wasn’t to be.
In the final encounter at Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka once again stepped up with the bat, scoring 482 in the first innings. Karunaratne scored a scintillating 196 while Chandimal, Perera and Dickwella contributed some valuable runs. Herath and Perera were once again outstanding with the ball, picking six wickets between them while Gamage and Lakmal accounted for four.
Just when things started to look good for Sri Lanka, their batting once again collapsed in the second innings, scoring just 96. Pakistan still had a mountain to climb in chasing 317 in the fourth innings of a Test match. They threatened to chase down the target at one stage, but Perera’s fifer sealed the game for Sri Lanka while there were pivotal and timely contributions from other bowlers as well.
Sri Lanka have found reliable players in the form of Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera while Dinesh Chandimal has flourished with the captain’s hat on. Rangana Herath continues to weave magic and was well supported by Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Gamage and Fernando. If Sri Lanka manage to put up collective performances like this more often, then the day is not very far when Sri Lanka will develop into a dominant force and one of the toughest Test nations.
At times, when a team is going through a rough patch, a series win like this can infuse confidence and act as a turning point. Sri Lanka have faced some tough times in Test cricket in the recent times, and this rare away win can inspire them for the future. Will Sri Lanka transform into a formidable side in the near future? Well, that is for the time to tell, but as of now, they have seriously found some positives from the tour.