Kaneria's second-innings drought
When Danish Kaneria came into the Pakistan team, he was seen - quite rightly, it seemed - as Pakistan's lastest match-winning legspinner, following in the esteemed footsteps of Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed. Pakistan's rich fast-bowling talent also meant he'd probably be needed most in the third and fourth innings of Tests, to finish off the opposition on wearing tracks after pace had done its job in the early part of the game.
Through the early part of his career Kaneria performed that task with aplomb. His early victims were Bangladesh, against whom he took 13 wickets in two second-innings efforts, but soon better batsmen came croppers against him as well: his 5 for 46 against South Africa on their visit to Lahore in 2003-04 won Pakistan the game and Kaneria the joint Man-of-the-Match award, while Sri Lanka were taken to the cleaners as well in another sterling performance - 7 for 116 in the second innings - in Karachi the next season.
Long spells were never a problem for Kaneria, and his ability to strike regularly in the latter part of matches made him an invaluable asset: in his first 20 Tests, he averaged just 20 runs per wicket in the second innings, and struck once every 46 deliveries.
Since then, though, the story has changed considerably. Kaneria has continued to toil through long spells, but extracting wickets has become more difficult. The most recent examples were the two Tests against South Africa: on pitches made to assist Pakistan's slow bowlers, Kaneria managed 5 for 209 in Karachi, and 5 for 213 in Lahore. The problem was also his ineffectiveness when South Africa batted a second time - in Lahore he bowled 44.3 overs but only had one wicket to show for his efforts.
As the table below shows, these two matches are part of a bigger trend, which is why Pakistan should be worried: in his last 25 second-innings displays over a period of nearly three years, Kaneria only has 46 wickets at an average and strike-rate that are both worse than his corresponding first-innings numbers. His only second-innings five-for during this period was in Kingston against West Indies more than two years back, when his 5 for 46 allowed Pakistan to comfortably defend a fourth-innings target of 280.
|Matches||Wickets||Average||Strike rate||5WI/ 10WM|
|In 1st innings||20||42||36.64||76.9||1/ 2|
|In 2nd innings||17||45||20.15||45.8||5/ 2|
|In 1st innings||28||75||35.18||68.2||5/ 0|
|In 2nd innings||25||46||37.93||76.7||1/ 0|
The table below compares Kaneria's efforts with those of his fellow spinners, and the numbers don't flatter him much. Only Nicky Boje, with an average of 42.35, has done worse in second innings.
|Muttiah Muralitharan||20||85||15.52||36.6||9/ 7|
|Shane Warne||28||91||20.21||42.9||6/ 2|
|Daniel Vettori||11||22||24.13||48.8||1/ 1|
|Monty Panesar||18||37||26.32||56.7||4/ 1|
|Anil Kumble||25||67||29.07||56.0||3/ 2|
|Chris Gayle||17||20||33.00||67.2||1/ 0|
|Danish Kaneria||25||46||37.93||76.7||1/ 0|
|Nicky Boje||15||20||42.35||81.8||0/ 0|
Surprisingly, Pakistan's two earlier legspin stalwarts have contrasting stats in second innings: Mushtaq used to be unstoppable on a wearing track, while Qadir didn't have quite as much success. The early part of Kaneria's career suggested he was taking after Mushtaq, but he has been replicating Qadir's numbers of late. A combination of both - Qadir's stats in the first innings, and Muhtaq's in the second - will suit Pakistan perfectly.
England's rare act
To beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka is tough enough; to beat them when batting second, twice in a row, is nothing short of Herculean. England have every reason to feel proud of the achievement, which gave them a memorable series win - since 1996, Sri Lanka have lost just seven out of 42 matches when batting first at home, and England became only the second team to chase targets successfully in two consecutive matches against them during this period. The other team to do that was Pakistan, who won by identical four-wicket margins at the Premadasa and the SSC in March 2006.
In fact, Sri Lanka seem to have lost that touch of invincibility when batting first at home over the last 18 months. These four defeats have all come in their last seven games. In 35 ODIs before March 2006, they had been beaten just three times when defending a total - twice by India and once by Australia. During the same period, they have been relatively more vulnerable when chasing a target at home, losing 13 out of 53.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.