March 10, 2000

Sri Lanka win Peshawar Test to clinch


Peshawar, March 9: Sri Lanka needed just 10 deliveries on the final morning to remove Pakistan's last two batsmen and secure an impregnable 2-0 lead in the three-match series by winning the second cricket Test by 57 runs at the Arbab Niaz Stadium here on Thursday.

Saeed Anwar, nursing a sprained neck, miscued an on-drive to be caught by Pramodya Wickremasinghe at mid-on off Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan picked up his sixth wicket of the innings when Arshad Khan provided Mahela Jayawardena his fourth catch of the innings.

Jayawardena, in fact, equalled the world record of most catches in a Test with seven here. Only three others have taken similar number of catches - Greg Chappell of Australia, Yajurvindra Singh of India and Jayawardena's compatriot Hashan Tillekeratne.

Pakistan, who resumed this morning at 222 for eight, were bundled out for 236 while chasing 294 for victory to keep the series alive after losing the Rawalpindi Test by two wickets.

Muralitharan, the champion off-spinner, celebrated his 50th Test by winning the Man-of-the-Match award for his match haul of 10 for 148. However, his party was partly spoiled when Arshad denied him his maiden Test hat trick before falling five balls later.

Muralitharan had bagged four wickets for 77 runs and added six more wickets in the second conceding 71 runs.

It was Pakistan's fifth straight defeat after being whitewashed by Australia three months ago. Pakistan have already lost five one-dayers on a trot and nine out of the last 13 it has played.

The sorry tale of Pakistan cricket doesn't end here. By virtue of losing the current series, Pakistan has lost five home series in as a many year to Sri Lanka (twice), South Africa, Australia and Zimbabwe. Their only success during this wretched phase was against Zimbabwe and West Indies while they were held one-all by New Zealand in the two-Test series in 1996-97.

Sri Lanka, who overhauled their team after the World Cup, continued to progress in the right direction by winning their third successive series after defeating Australia at home and then Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. The victory also helped Sri Lanka to climb to third place in the Wisden cricket ratings behind Australia and South Africa while Pakistan continued to struggle at fifth spot behind the equalling struggling West Indies.

Pakistan batsmen squandered a bright start to be dismissed for 199 in the first innings after being 154 for three shortly after lunch. Having conceded a 69-run first innings lead, no miracles were expected from them in the second innings since they had already consumed their share of fightback in Rawalpindi where Younis Khan and Wasim Akram added 145 runs for the ninth wicket to give Pakistan some hope.

Then in the second innings, Shahid Afridi provided a good start with Saeed Anwar but perished while playing a reckless shot. Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan followed in the footsteps of Shahid while Abdur Razzaq never looked comfortable against the magician Muralitharan.

The only batsman who showed some guts was Yousuf Youhana who played attacking and positive cricket to score 88.

Pakistan batsmen's inability to occupy the crease and play out even two sessions needs to be post-mortem. The pitch held no demons as demonstrated by Marvan Atapattu, Russel Arnold, Saeed Anwar and Yousuf Youhana.

Pakistan had their share of bad luck too with skipper Saeed Anwar getting injured when he was looking good and compact. But that can't be taken as an excuse because there were batsmen who have played international cricket and know the pressure and responsibilities lay on their shoulders.

Sri Lanka, with their disciplined and planned cricket, proved that they were yards ahead of Pakistan. They batted with admirable courage and concentration while the bowlers struck to their task by making the batsmen play and force errors. The fielders back their bowlers by throwing themselves around and curtailing twos into ones and three into twos.