March 11, 2002

Sri Lankans too strong for inept Pakistan: Unlucky Inzamam

Inzamam-ul-Haq became victim of a dubious "leg before decision" as Sri Lanka were crowned new Asian Test champions after beating Pakistan by eight wickets on the fifth morning at the Gaddafi Stadium Sunday.

The Pakistan vice-captain was declared out by Australian Daryl Harper off a no-ball. Earlier Harper blundered when headjudged Abdul Razzaq lbw off Muttiah Muralitharan.

Inzamam's dismissal opened the floodgates for Sri Lanka with the second new ball as Pakistan were bowled out for 325, having started the day at 248 for five.

Sri Lanka, needing 32 for victory, took as many deliveries but lost both the openers before completing a clinical and professional job.

Despite Harper's howlers the visitors deserved victory, their ninth in succession as Pakistan were totally and utterly outclassed.

"I would say Inzamam was very unlucky," Pakistan coach Mudassar Nazar remarked.

Without defending Pakistan's pathetic and indisciplined performance and belittling Sri Lanka's professional show, Harper's horrendous bloomer took the gloss off what was set to be an exciting finale to the final day following 328 minutes loss on the fourth day.

Pakistan's gallant fightback was being led by Inzamam with Shoaib Malik extending good helping hand. But the 31-year-old was given marching orders at 99 - his sixth nervous ninety figure in 80 Tests - and after he had added 100 runs for the sixth wicket with Shoaib Malik in 183 minutes.

Harper, who is in the panel of ICC umpires, had also denied Pakistan victory in the 1999 Test against Australia at Hobart. On that occasion, he had given Justin Langer not out after the left-hander thick edged Wasim Akram to Moin Khan. Australia won the Test by four wickets to take an impregnable 2-0 lead that led to a 3-0 demolition of Wasim's men.

Harper's decision adds fuel to the debate on giving more powers to television umpires who have replay facilities. If leg before decision can't be referred to TV umpires, no-balls can definitely be adjudged with television assistance.

The Sri Lankans clearly had problems with over-stepping in the match. Chaminda Vaas alone over-stepped 30 times, including 20 in the second innings. Overall, 66 no-balls were bowled in the match, a fact that might interest the statisticians.

The idea of judging no-balls was floated last year after Old Trafford Test where Pakistan were fortunate to escape away with four wickets, all off no-balls. The umpire that time was David Shepherd, which also proves the point that umpiring is overall on a decline.

Pakistan can feel cheated as it is the third time in less than two years that they have to pay for umpiring errors. In 2000, they were denied to make history in the West Indies when New Zealander Doug Cowie declared last man Courtney Walsh not out when he was held at short-leg off a big inside edge.

In December 2000, Jamaican Steve Bucknor forced the conclusion of the third Test in near darkness, overruling Pakistan protest of not sighting the ball.

Reverting to the proceedings of the game, Inzamam began positively and confidently under a clear blue sky by hitting Muttiah Muralitharan for 14 runs in an over with two boundaries and a six. He looked confident and on a mission as he batted with responsibility and commitment until Harper gave him the shock of his life.

Inzamam occupied the crease for exactly five hours during which he received 228 balls. Inzamam, normally a free stroking batsman, hit six boundaries and a six.

Inzamam's dismissal, in the seventh over of the day and fourth with the second new ball, ended slim Pakistan hopes and after Shoaib Malik and Rashid Latif back in the pavillion within a space of nine balls.

Skipper Waqar Younis threw his bat around and picked up four boundaries and a six off Vaas to avert innings defeat until he was adjudged caught at forward short-leg off Muralitharan who finished with four wickets for 72 runs.

The spin king had match figures of eight for 127. He now has 48 wickets in his last seven Tests on Pakistan soil.

Vaas ended up with four for 85 following his two for 62 in the first innings.

While the defeat ended Pakistan's run of six straight victories, it was their sixth loss in the last 14 Tests at home since losing to Australia at Rawalpindi in 1998. The home team has won just two Tests, one each against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Pakistan, who paid the price for dropping Saqlain Mushtaq and by not considering Wasim Akram for selection, were badly let down by the fielders who grassed no less than four catches - three off Sangakkara.

Sri Lanka have sent Pakistan back to the drawing board who were flying high following their victories over poor Bangladesh and the West Indies.

New Zealand are to arrive here in less than five weeks and unless the problems are sorted out, identified and dealt with, more embarrassment looks to be in store.