Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 5th day January 4, 2014

Resilient Sri Lanka overcome Test layoff

Sri Lanka will be pleased at having yielded no ground to Pakistan, after having been dormant in this format for so long. The pitch may have had the final say, but Sri Lanka were the more satisfied side in the end
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Four absorbing days gave way to a placid fifth, and though Sri Lanka had hoped for victory after their fourth-day advances, they might reflect on this Test with considerable satisfaction. As has been the theme of the tour so far - aside from two ODIs where Pakistan ran rampant - the sides appeared well matched, taking two days each and sharing the fifth. But given only three wickets fell on the last two days, the pitch has outshone them both.

Sri Lanka will be most encouraged by the young batsmen's batting on the third and fourth day, but they should be similarly pleased at having yielded no ground to Pakistan, after having been dormant in this format for so long. Pakistan arrived in the series with a slight edge, but the Dubai match will be approached on an even keel. Sri Lanka's batsmen were wasteful on the first afternoon, and their inexperienced pace bowlers might have progressed further had they not endured months of inaction.

But if those are the only visible detriments from Sri Lanka's cancellations and postponements, they can perhaps claim to have navigated their challenge well. In so many ways, it had also been the perfect pitch to ease Sri Lanka back into top-level cricket. Moth-eaten batting techniques were challenged by sound bowling on this surface, but there was rarely anything unplayable. Through the course of the match, Sri Lanka's batsmen visibly altered their approach to the extent that their progress on the fourth and fifth day was leisurely on the modern Test-match scale.

If Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal had had a light workload in the approach to the series, they can say they've had a proper Test-match workout now. Both bowled over 40 overs each and only rarely gave in to waywardness. Rangana Herath had had almost no cricket of any sort in the past month, but unsurprisingly for those who have followed his career, he managed impeccable lines and lengths.

Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of the match for fans was Herath and Saeed Ajmal's failure to make an impact in it. When the two best spin bowlers in the world play in Asia, a shootout on the fourth and fifth days would almost certainly have made the match more compelling. Perhaps aware of Sri Lanka's shortcomings with and against seam bowling however, perhaps the groundsmen had aimed for a greentop in Pakistan's virtual home venue. There was zip off the surface early on on all three days, but not nearly as much as the hue of the track suggested.

"In the first three days of the Test the pitch was quite helpful for the fast bowlers," Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said. "Whenever the quicks bowled on the first three days something happened. It's not a usual Abu Dhabi wicket. Usually it gets slower and starts to really take turn from the spinners on days three and four. This time we saw that they couldn't get any turn."

Ajmal has never bowled more than 17 overs in the second innings and finished wicketless, and though his overall figures against Sri Lanka are laudable, the batsmen will not be uneasy at the prospect of facing him in Dubai. Against spin bowling of his kind, a lack of fear might be an inoculation, but perhaps these mental edges are only worth so much against a team like Pakistan, who are capable of defying sense of any sort, from any team, at any place. Sri Lanka might arrive in the next Emirate and find nothing in this match really mattered.

If there is a quibble with Sri Lanka on the final day, it is a minor one. Mathews and Prasanna Jayawardene could have sought quick runs after the first few overs, as a bigger lead might have allowed Sri Lanka to attack for longer in the following sessions. As Mathews suggested after play however, Sri Lanka could have conceivably lost the match even from the position they were in on the last morning, and some conservatism was warranted.

"First of all we had to make sure that we don't get into a losing position. We had to get to a strong position to bowl them out. The wicket wasn't doing that much so we knew we needed some time to get them out as well. But we thought if we batted a few overs and get to the 300 mark, it wouldn't be easy for them to get to that target. But we actually saw that the wicket played extremely well."

A happy, performing captain is also a boon to any side, and by that marker, Sri Lanka could hardly be better-placed. Mathews, by his own admission in 2012, had had trouble converting his fifties into innings of considerable heft, but no lapses in concentration ailed him in Abu Dhabi. He finished unbeaten on 157, a little spent, but satisfied, just like his team.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 7, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    As always we love you guys, you are doing enough for our tiny Island. Fight hard till the end no matter wht the result is..

  • on January 7, 2014, 4:23 GMT

    @prabha,the drama you says is not on that mood to be frank. currently sri lanka team is really competitive. to give you an example show me any team who is consistent in foreign soils more than 50%.mr. consistent droni was a failure in test as India lost 9 of their 10 tests in overseas .England , south africa, Australia you name as champs are BIG failures in their tours in last few years. but still they get tests as per administration body's ability .sri lanka has played only 3 tests in last year where as little Zimbabwe played 6 . admin bodies have to push for tests and should prove that e are ready . if not no sorry for our cricket .

  • on January 6, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    I am still not convinced about our bowling in the long run. We need genuine FAST bowler as a strike weapon to be successful in overseas conditions. Lakmal and Eranga are honest medium pace bowlers in the mould of Chaminda Vaas. We need someone like a Steyn or Mitchell Johnson to compliment them. Nuwan Pradeep is not as fast, but he can be a short term solution if he gets the line and length right.

  • bigbang07 on January 6, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    @Prababhakar. Fair call mate, agree that we have at best, a middling team in tests. There are many reasons why we dont have a solid record: personally I put it down to poor fast bowlers and a general lack of opportunities. I firmly feel that giving the players more frequent tours (via better overseas performances and less short sighted home boards) would be ideal as they will surely improve over time. At the end of the day, playing tests more frequently make the lads better.

    Good day to you!

  • Forward-DEFENCE on January 6, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    I really like to watch the matches between Pakistan and Sri Lanka because of the aspects covered by the commentators.Arnold,Waqar and Ramiz are very friendly guys who speak beyond the match.They speak about their past experiences , domestic performances which make the watching bowl game very interesting.Good commitment guys.Keep it up

  • Forward-DEFENCE on January 6, 2014, 8:21 GMT

    Skillful bowling performance in the first innings . positive batting performances by youngsters along with experience of Sanga and Prasanna together with commitment shown in the field gifted a draw for Sri Lanka . However i is very important to keep the positives of this match for the rest of the series as we know Pakistan is a very strong team.Hope their will be no change in the playing XI of Sri Lanka except one in the spinning department.[If the Dubai pitch demanded].Best of luck for both teams for a thriller at DUBAI

  • latnadu on January 6, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    @bigbang07, @Prabhakar Muthukrishnan thanks for your views. im a Sri Lankan. what i can see here is afterwords arjuna and jayasooriya times now there is no 1 to take the responsibility, they all play for them selves except nuwan kulasekara and sachithra sena. (on nowadays)

    IPL destroys Lasith Malinga, Chris Gale, Pollard and some others as well. now those crickerts like a muppet of Iindian Cric.

    as former SL captain said now there is no cricket. Its all about IPL money. HOW SAD!!!

  • on January 6, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    I love it sri Lanka team and happy new year 2014

  • ajithabey on January 6, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Congrats to Sri Lanka for their resilient performance in the second innings. Finally the middle order batsmen delivered the expectations. Pakistan should have gone for the win with their in form batsmen but they killed it finally. Hopefully, the SL selectors will continue with this team except perhaps give allrounder Dilruwan Perera to showcase his skills in the next game.

  • on January 6, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    no second thoughts this was the best of a sri lankan captain for a loooooooong time. we can recall few such innings only in world cricket even for last few years..mathews is at his best. well about sachithra , he is a good spinner. we all knew warne bowled 30 odd overs for 150 runs for just one wicket in first test.but still if we need to win we can have a additional seamer like nuwan pradeep. if tarindu kaushal can fly for injured kulasekara he should be a good replacement too with his current form. with seniors falling we saw the magics of young players. love it.keep it up guys good fight . once gul will return it would not be easy. all the best..

  • on January 7, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    As always we love you guys, you are doing enough for our tiny Island. Fight hard till the end no matter wht the result is..

  • on January 7, 2014, 4:23 GMT

    @prabha,the drama you says is not on that mood to be frank. currently sri lanka team is really competitive. to give you an example show me any team who is consistent in foreign soils more than 50%.mr. consistent droni was a failure in test as India lost 9 of their 10 tests in overseas .England , south africa, Australia you name as champs are BIG failures in their tours in last few years. but still they get tests as per administration body's ability .sri lanka has played only 3 tests in last year where as little Zimbabwe played 6 . admin bodies have to push for tests and should prove that e are ready . if not no sorry for our cricket .

  • on January 6, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    I am still not convinced about our bowling in the long run. We need genuine FAST bowler as a strike weapon to be successful in overseas conditions. Lakmal and Eranga are honest medium pace bowlers in the mould of Chaminda Vaas. We need someone like a Steyn or Mitchell Johnson to compliment them. Nuwan Pradeep is not as fast, but he can be a short term solution if he gets the line and length right.

  • bigbang07 on January 6, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    @Prababhakar. Fair call mate, agree that we have at best, a middling team in tests. There are many reasons why we dont have a solid record: personally I put it down to poor fast bowlers and a general lack of opportunities. I firmly feel that giving the players more frequent tours (via better overseas performances and less short sighted home boards) would be ideal as they will surely improve over time. At the end of the day, playing tests more frequently make the lads better.

    Good day to you!

  • Forward-DEFENCE on January 6, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    I really like to watch the matches between Pakistan and Sri Lanka because of the aspects covered by the commentators.Arnold,Waqar and Ramiz are very friendly guys who speak beyond the match.They speak about their past experiences , domestic performances which make the watching bowl game very interesting.Good commitment guys.Keep it up

  • Forward-DEFENCE on January 6, 2014, 8:21 GMT

    Skillful bowling performance in the first innings . positive batting performances by youngsters along with experience of Sanga and Prasanna together with commitment shown in the field gifted a draw for Sri Lanka . However i is very important to keep the positives of this match for the rest of the series as we know Pakistan is a very strong team.Hope their will be no change in the playing XI of Sri Lanka except one in the spinning department.[If the Dubai pitch demanded].Best of luck for both teams for a thriller at DUBAI

  • latnadu on January 6, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    @bigbang07, @Prabhakar Muthukrishnan thanks for your views. im a Sri Lankan. what i can see here is afterwords arjuna and jayasooriya times now there is no 1 to take the responsibility, they all play for them selves except nuwan kulasekara and sachithra sena. (on nowadays)

    IPL destroys Lasith Malinga, Chris Gale, Pollard and some others as well. now those crickerts like a muppet of Iindian Cric.

    as former SL captain said now there is no cricket. Its all about IPL money. HOW SAD!!!

  • on January 6, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    I love it sri Lanka team and happy new year 2014

  • ajithabey on January 6, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Congrats to Sri Lanka for their resilient performance in the second innings. Finally the middle order batsmen delivered the expectations. Pakistan should have gone for the win with their in form batsmen but they killed it finally. Hopefully, the SL selectors will continue with this team except perhaps give allrounder Dilruwan Perera to showcase his skills in the next game.

  • on January 6, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    no second thoughts this was the best of a sri lankan captain for a loooooooong time. we can recall few such innings only in world cricket even for last few years..mathews is at his best. well about sachithra , he is a good spinner. we all knew warne bowled 30 odd overs for 150 runs for just one wicket in first test.but still if we need to win we can have a additional seamer like nuwan pradeep. if tarindu kaushal can fly for injured kulasekara he should be a good replacement too with his current form. with seniors falling we saw the magics of young players. love it.keep it up guys good fight . once gul will return it would not be easy. all the best..

  • SkyCutter on January 5, 2014, 23:27 GMT

    The point to note is that Angelo M. single handedly saved this test for SL.

  • playboy142 on January 5, 2014, 22:22 GMT

    Khurram Manzoor last 5 innings = 4, 0, 0, 21, 8.

  • on January 5, 2014, 22:11 GMT

    Khurram Manzoor last 5 innings = 4, 0, 0, 21, 8 = 33 runs at an average of 6.60.

  • on January 5, 2014, 20:51 GMT

    Mathews was only difference between both teams who played captain knock and rescue SL in both innings otherwise it was straight loss to SL .this is one of the worst SL seam bolwing attack in test cricket after long time but they still manage to restrict Pak batsmen particularly in first innings except younas and Misbah non of pak batsman able to score .Ajmal and Herath didn't make any difference its concerning hiw they will perform in remaining test matches.

  • screamingeagle on January 5, 2014, 20:22 GMT

    Was bored with the match. After the first couple of days it was just drifting. Just saying as a neutral fan.

  • on January 5, 2014, 16:08 GMT

    @bigbang07. Hi buddy. I was precisely making that point. I too am a big fan of Sri Lankan cricket right from the days of Duleep Mendis. Have you ever wondered why are Sri Lankans not invited frequently for overseas tours. The reason is simple, because they are not competitive enough in test cricket. This doesn't make for interesting cricket.This is the reason they need to take every opportunity available to prove that they are not just "home tigers" and that they can compete with anyone anywhere on a "consistent" basis. Not a one off win against Pakistan and a win against England somewhere. It is possible, provided there is strong leadership, which is lacking after Arjuna Ranatunga retired. They need someone like him now. Someone who can instill in them a sense of self belief.

  • Nuwas on January 5, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    @stumpedlloyd : Who really play to loose mate??? May be your team. If you haven't watched the whole test match check out the full scorecards willya. SL had to work so hard to get themselves out of the loosing position they were due their first innings' performance & they did it showing tremendous courage & sense ( not like someothers) & if you see the performances of individual players of SL they didn't play for personal glory (like some players of other teams did recently), but for the sake of our country. Thats why SL was able to get themselves a draw turning it around from a prospective loss.

  • mainul079080 on January 5, 2014, 11:04 GMT

    @ Murtaza Moiz Farooqui You asked me ''Who're you talking about selection of players' in team Pakistan?'' I dont think that i have to take the permission of you to say about your team in espncricinfo,the country who even cant give minimum security to visiting teams and thereby lost the ''status'' of arranging matches in their country. Yes, i checked the stats before saying about Asad and Adnan.Asad averages 38 in tests and Nasir 45. And in ODIs? Asad 26 only and Nasir 43.Adnan avges 24 in tests and 20 in ODI, whereas Mushfiq 32 and 26. So, whats the conclusion? I think you will digest your words.

  • bigbang07 on January 5, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    @Prabhakar, when a team like India tours Australia (nearly every other year), South Africa (once in 2/3 years) and England as often as they do, they are bound to do well. Sri Lanka faced South Africa in 2001 and then in 2011 (10 year gap) , and still ensured a competitive series last time they played.

    For all the advantages of having a large population, numerous academies and chest thumping Indians have done, they are yet to win a test series in Australia or South Africa, after having played Tests from the 1930's. Sri Lanka, conversely have played from the 1980s and make foreign tours infrequently, give us the same level of consistency in overseas tests and we will improve.

  • on January 5, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    @nisala fernando. If Indian pitches are flat then why hasn't Sri Lanka won a single test match there??? Plus your team managed to win a test match in SA this time around, after donkey number of years. India has won tests there right from 2006 onwards. This time around too, a very inexperienced Indian line up did not capitulate meekly as the experienced Sri Lankan batting line up always does.

  • on January 5, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    @mainul079080: first check the stats before saying anything against opponent teams! The team you're talking about and its comparison with the team you belong to is totally rubbish! No offence but there is and there should be difference between a team and herd! Who're you talking about selection of players' in team Pakistan? I take it in that manner that our bench strength possesses such players. SO STOP WORRYING ABOUT TEAM PAKISTAN and worry about your team who's (always) on verge of losing its test status every now and than! #NoOffence

  • on January 5, 2014, 5:11 GMT

    @stumpedlloyd: LOL Indian pitches are flat and India cannot win outside Asia. Aussies and England tend to struggle in Asia particularly against Pakistan. SL won a test match against SA the last time they toured there which India couldnt manage to do this time. And you think Tests should be played by only INDIA (flat track heroes), Australia (susceptible against quality spin) England (see Aus) and South Africa? Get off your high horse

  • mainul079080 on January 5, 2014, 4:25 GMT

    I can assure you all Pakistani fellows that Bangladesh selectors wont pick Asad Shafiq and Adnan Akmal into Bangladesh side. They are so ordinary. As we have great talent Nasir Hossain (Test avg >45) and Mushfiqur Rahim(Avg >32 with a double hundred against Srilanka) batting at no 6 and 7. Dont you have Fawad Alam? dont you have Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail? So why are you persisting with these club level players? I simply dont understand.

  • stumpedlloyd on January 5, 2014, 4:03 GMT

    I think Angelo Mathews' comments in the 9th paragraph exemplify what's wrong with his (and, currently, Sri Lanka's) attitude. He did not want to take any chances to warrant a result. With a captain maintaining that attitude, I cannot see Sri Lanka advancing as a test-cricketing side. They may very well maul the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but you have to be gutsy to play test cricket, and Sri Lanka and its skipper in particular are anything but.

  • DanushkaMD on January 5, 2014, 3:20 GMT

    I think sl can satisfy them self.. dilshan's ansence big guns not fire youngsters up on the task.. dimuth can bat longer its plesure.. kaushal, chandi, angi, prasanna come to runs. Specialy first innigs angi' s 91 change the game.. good luck to rest of the series.

  • mensan on January 5, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    No doubt SL batted well. But the wicket had become too placid.

    DRS without HOTSPOT or SNICKO is useless.

    Pakistan for 2nd test: OUT: Khurram, Asad, Rahat IN: Shan, Azhar, Abdur Rehman

  • stumpedlloyd on January 5, 2014, 1:42 GMT

    While the ongoing Ashes series and the recently concluded far-too-short series between India and South Africa are great examples of what test cricket ought to be, this First Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is a bad example of test cricket. You have a placid wicket prepared and two teams who play not to lose, as opposed to playing to win. It's moments like this that make me wonder whether test cricket should simply be played by India, Australia, England, South Africa - and possibly New Zealand - and relegate the others to play ODI and rubbish T20s. Neither team on this occasion showed the courage to go for the win. Sri Lanka delayed declaring and Pakistan then simply put up its shutters. Terrible examples, both sides.

  • xylo on January 4, 2014, 21:25 GMT

    Resilient? Was this track bouncy, or pacy or turning? No. And still, they were shot out for under 300 in the first innings. Pakistan, which is a bowling-dependent side, managed to score 300+.

  • Tweety20 on January 4, 2014, 19:22 GMT

    Good work boys! Keep it coming for the next encounters as well. Hope that SL can pull out a win in the next match. JAYA SRI.

  • on January 4, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    plenty of positives for SL but also plenty to work out. batting was ok in 2nd but poor in 1st. bowling on such wickets always leave too much to think. you cant figure out who was your best bowler as wicket was not helpful . positives are batting by mathews , chandimal and new opener. and that will boost their confidence

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  • on January 4, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    plenty of positives for SL but also plenty to work out. batting was ok in 2nd but poor in 1st. bowling on such wickets always leave too much to think. you cant figure out who was your best bowler as wicket was not helpful . positives are batting by mathews , chandimal and new opener. and that will boost their confidence

  • Tweety20 on January 4, 2014, 19:22 GMT

    Good work boys! Keep it coming for the next encounters as well. Hope that SL can pull out a win in the next match. JAYA SRI.

  • xylo on January 4, 2014, 21:25 GMT

    Resilient? Was this track bouncy, or pacy or turning? No. And still, they were shot out for under 300 in the first innings. Pakistan, which is a bowling-dependent side, managed to score 300+.

  • stumpedlloyd on January 5, 2014, 1:42 GMT

    While the ongoing Ashes series and the recently concluded far-too-short series between India and South Africa are great examples of what test cricket ought to be, this First Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is a bad example of test cricket. You have a placid wicket prepared and two teams who play not to lose, as opposed to playing to win. It's moments like this that make me wonder whether test cricket should simply be played by India, Australia, England, South Africa - and possibly New Zealand - and relegate the others to play ODI and rubbish T20s. Neither team on this occasion showed the courage to go for the win. Sri Lanka delayed declaring and Pakistan then simply put up its shutters. Terrible examples, both sides.

  • mensan on January 5, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    No doubt SL batted well. But the wicket had become too placid.

    DRS without HOTSPOT or SNICKO is useless.

    Pakistan for 2nd test: OUT: Khurram, Asad, Rahat IN: Shan, Azhar, Abdur Rehman

  • DanushkaMD on January 5, 2014, 3:20 GMT

    I think sl can satisfy them self.. dilshan's ansence big guns not fire youngsters up on the task.. dimuth can bat longer its plesure.. kaushal, chandi, angi, prasanna come to runs. Specialy first innigs angi' s 91 change the game.. good luck to rest of the series.

  • stumpedlloyd on January 5, 2014, 4:03 GMT

    I think Angelo Mathews' comments in the 9th paragraph exemplify what's wrong with his (and, currently, Sri Lanka's) attitude. He did not want to take any chances to warrant a result. With a captain maintaining that attitude, I cannot see Sri Lanka advancing as a test-cricketing side. They may very well maul the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but you have to be gutsy to play test cricket, and Sri Lanka and its skipper in particular are anything but.

  • mainul079080 on January 5, 2014, 4:25 GMT

    I can assure you all Pakistani fellows that Bangladesh selectors wont pick Asad Shafiq and Adnan Akmal into Bangladesh side. They are so ordinary. As we have great talent Nasir Hossain (Test avg >45) and Mushfiqur Rahim(Avg >32 with a double hundred against Srilanka) batting at no 6 and 7. Dont you have Fawad Alam? dont you have Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail? So why are you persisting with these club level players? I simply dont understand.

  • on January 5, 2014, 5:11 GMT

    @stumpedlloyd: LOL Indian pitches are flat and India cannot win outside Asia. Aussies and England tend to struggle in Asia particularly against Pakistan. SL won a test match against SA the last time they toured there which India couldnt manage to do this time. And you think Tests should be played by only INDIA (flat track heroes), Australia (susceptible against quality spin) England (see Aus) and South Africa? Get off your high horse

  • on January 5, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    @mainul079080: first check the stats before saying anything against opponent teams! The team you're talking about and its comparison with the team you belong to is totally rubbish! No offence but there is and there should be difference between a team and herd! Who're you talking about selection of players' in team Pakistan? I take it in that manner that our bench strength possesses such players. SO STOP WORRYING ABOUT TEAM PAKISTAN and worry about your team who's (always) on verge of losing its test status every now and than! #NoOffence