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

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

  • Dummy4 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..

  • Dummy4 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 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 .

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Shehan 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!

  • Gayangana 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

  • Gayangana 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

  • campi 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!!!

  • Dummy on January 6, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    I love it sri Lanka team and happy new year 2014

  • Ajith 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.

  • Dummy4 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..

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