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October 15, 2017

Setback in the UAE


October 15, 2017

Before the Test series against Sri Lanka in the UAE, it was a general perception that Pakistan will beat the Islanders quite easily. The reason was that just two months back, India had whitewashed Sri Lanka in all three formats on their home ground.

But the inexperienced Sri Lankans surprised Pakistan when they whitewashed hosts Pakistan in the two-Test series.

First, Sri Lanka successfully defended a modest target of 136 in Abu Dhabi as the Green-shirts were bowled out for just 114.

This was Sri Lanka’s lowest defended target, improving on the 168 they set the Pakistanis in the Galle Test in 2009. It was also Pakistan’s first defeat in Abu Dhabi in 10 Tests.

People thought the Sri Lankan win was a fluke and in the second Test in Dubai, Pakistan will bounce back. But Sri Lanka again beat Pakistan.

They posted a huge total of 482 in their first innings as Pakistani attack failed miserably. This was a formidable total as no team had lost after scoring as many in their first innings in Tests in the UAE.

With a healthy first innings lead, Sri Lanka set a tough target of 317 for Pakistan to level the series. The top order once again had a poor start as half of the batsmen were back in the dressing room on just 52.

But experienced Asad Shafiq and captain Sarfraz Ahmed put together a record 173-run partnership for the sixth wicket which gave a hope of an unexpected win. But the dismissal of the skipper triggered another collapse and the target could not be attained. 

The 173-run stand between Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed was the only third hundred-plus stand for the sixth wicket for Pakistan in the fourth innings.

With a surprising series win, Sri Lanka will heave a sigh of relief as the series win will bring much-needed confidence back into the side.

Asad Shafiq has scored two fourth-innings centuries within a year, both resulting in losses in day-night Tests. He scored 137 at the Gabba last year in a chase of 490. Pakistan lost that Test by 40 runs.

Asad Shafiq became the fourth Pakistan batsmen to score two or more hundreds in the fourth innings, after Younis Khan (five), Javed Miandad (two) and Ijaz Ahmed (two).

Sri Lanka’s series win ended Pakistan’s unbeaten run in the UAE. They played nine series in the UAE since 2010. During this period, Pakistan won five and drew four series. Their unbeaten run began with a two-match drawn series against South Africa in November 2010 under Misbah-ul-Haq.

After the whitewash against Sri Lanka, Pakistan have slipped down to seventh position in the ICC Test team ranking.

Pakistan were placed sixth before series with 93 points. Having lost five points, now there is 13 points difference between Pakistan and the eighth-ranked West Indies.

Lack of Test matches is the real concern for Pakistani players. They don’t have practice to stay on the crease. Excessive ODIs and T20Is badly affect batsmen’s temperament.

There are two reasons for the Pakistan series defeat against Sri Lanka. Firstly, it was because of batting failure as usual. Secondly and more importantly was the selection of wrong bowling composition. It’s an open secret that there is little assistance for the fast bowlers in any UAE ground. Pakistan’s most successes came through spinners.

Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah all played a vital role in Pakistan’s dominance in the UAE. But this time, the management took a bizarre decision of playing with three pacers and only one spinner. After Abu Dhabi loss, the management didn’t learn and retained the same bowling combination. 

 Pakistani pacers’ fitness was exposed in the UAE. Hasan Ali was ruled out after the first Test. Amir went back to dressing room on the second day that put more burden on Yasir Shah.

 Sri Lanka dominate the batting department as top three batsmen of the series were Sri Lankan. Dimuth Karunaratne was the most successful batsman with 306 runs, averaging 76.50, including one hundred and one fifty. For Pakistan, Asad Shafiq scored 183 runs at an average of 45.75.

 Pakistan’s both young openers Shan Masood and Sami Aslam failed and scored only 103 and 93 runs, respectively.

Surprisingly one of the most talented young batsmen Babar Azam failed in the longest version of the game and scored only 39 runs in four innings, averaging just 9.75.

Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath and Pakistan’s Yasir Shah got 16 wickets each in the series at average of 17.31 and 25.21, respectively.

Now the one-day series has begun, and Sarfraz & Co. have the chance to restore their pride that they had gained after winning the Champions Trophy in June this year.

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