335 balls (55.5 overs). Yes, that’s exactly the amount of deliveries Yasir Shah bowled in the first innings of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Dubai. For any bowler, to bowl these many overs is a huge task; it demands horse-like stamina and precision.
Yasir has been the backbone of Pakistan’s bowling and has done a magnificent job as the leader of the spin attack. Watching Yasir Shah bowl is a sight to behold. Bob Willis once tweeted: “Yasir Shah may end up being the most lethal spin bowler the game has ever seen.” Yasir has had a great impact since his debut and looks to be evolving with every outing. At present, he is undoubtedly one of the deadliest spin bowlers in contemporary cricket. And who knows, Willis’ prediction might come true in the years to come.
Yasir has been a workhorse and also the wicket-taking bowler for Pakistan. He has bowled 152 overs in the entire series, which included two dramatic Sri Lankan collapses and picked 16 wickets. He has not only bowled the marathon spells but also picked wickets on a regular basis. He has a knack of breaking partnerships and picking key wickets, which is rare.
Yasir has been on a roll in Test cricket, scripting one record after the other. On Saturday, he became the first spinner to have picked fifers in five consecutive games. Yasir’s career has been on a rise. He kept on improving after reaching every milestone in his career.
Yasir is the fastest Pakistani cricketer to 50 Test wickets. Yasir is the joint second-fastest to 100 Test wickets, which came in 17 games. Yasir also became the fastest spinner to 150 Test wickets (in 27 games) during the first Test at Abu Dhabi. Overall, he is the joint second-fastest alongside Waqar Younis.
Pakistan have dared to play just a solitary spinner and have shown immense faith in Yasir’s abilities and the wily leg-spinner has seldom disappointed. Although he had some spin bowling support from the part-timers, but he was the only specialist in the side.
In the Dubai Test, Yasir had a long day on the field as he was not getting a lot of purchase from the pitch. He was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo saying, “This is what we have to do, to bowl. I always try when I play for the team that I do well, that I bowl well. The wickets here are such – in Dubai, you don’t get much support on the first day, so that’s why I had to work a lot. So I just wanted to support the fast bowlers at one end. On the second day, there was more break but the body was a little tired from so much bowling. I probably haven’t bowled this much in a stretch before but I’m ok, the body is going.”
In the first Test, Yasir was the unsung hero as his performance was overshadowed by Rangana Herath’s brilliance and Sri Lanka’s rare away victory. Yasir did exceptionally well in scalping three wickets in the first innings on a surface, which looked conducive for batting. Pakistan fought back with the bat and the game was evenly poised at the end of the first innings.
Both the teams scored a total of over 400 in the first innings and a draw looked on the cards on Day 4. Pakistani bowlers, especially Yasir, infused momentum in the Test by derailing Sri Lanka for 138 in the second innings and simultaneously setting a target of 136. Yasir accounted for five Sri Lankan scalps and steered his side to command, but a dramatic batting collapse didn’t let Pakistan achieve fruitful results. Herath wreaked havoc with the ball and helped Sri Lanka defend their lowest fourth innings total.
After a disheartening defeat at Abu Dhabi, the onus of making a comeback was on Pakistan at Dubai. Yasir scripted history with his six-wicket haul in the first innings, but Sri Lanka had enough runs on the board.
Sri Lanka gained a massive 220-run lead from the first innings, which only put pressure on Pakistan. The second innings was always going to be a challenge for the Pakistani bowlers, but they showed good intent and character in dismantling Sri Lanka for a mere total of 96. Pakistani seamers did an outstanding job while Yasir accounted for two wickets and bowled 12 overs out of 26.Pakistan were whitewashed by Sri Lanka, but Yasir did play his part well. He picked 16 wickets from four innings at a healthy average of 25.12 and also finished the series as the joint-highest wicket-taker alongside Rangana Herath. Yasir has impressed many cricketing greats with his discipline and accuracy with the ball and continues to weave magic.
Pakistani bowlers did play their part, but were let down by their batsmen on both the occasions. In the first Test, they failed to chase down a modest target of 136 while in the second Test, failure in the first innings cost them massively. For Yasir, he continues to fulfil his duties with perfection and will be the man to watch out for in the games to come.