Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 5th day January 20, 2014

Pakistan pull off astonishing chase


Pakistan 341 (Shehzad 147, Misbah 63, Herath 5-125, Eranga 4-60) and 302 for 5 (Azhar 103, Misbah 68*) beat Sri Lanka 428 for 9 dec (Perera 95, Mathews 91, Sangakkara 52) and 214 (Rehman 4-56) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Pakistan turned a Test that had been an abysmal advertisement for cricket for four days and one session on its head, with an incredible batting performance after lunch on the final day, when they scored 302 runs in 57.3 overs to sucker-punch Sri Lanka and level the series. Their run-rate of 5.25 was the second highest in a successful chase of a 200-plus target, and the protagonists of this heist - Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed and Misbah-ul-Haq - proved that the soporific pace of the previous days was entirely by design, largely Sri Lanka's to protect their 1-0 lead.

For the fifth day to have ended in a result, both teams needed to play extraordinary cricket. Pakistan were extraordinarily purposeful; Sri Lanka were extraordinarily negligent. The visitors began the day with a lead of 220 and five second-innings wickets in hand but batted so slowly, adding 19 runs in the last 16.4 overs. With a minimum of 59 overs left in two sessions Sri Lanka were still favourites, if not to win then certainly to draw, but they were ultra-defensive from the outset against a desperate Pakistan unit. As Misbah-ul-Haq's side motored towards the target with an unfamiliar efficiency, it became too late for Angelo Mathews to snap himself and his side out of stupor. Sri Lanka sank in the Sharjah twilight, with their captain and fielders feebly complaining about not being able to see the ball.

Pakistan needed 195 in 35 overs at the start of the final session, and they had made a tactical decision to send Sarfraz Ahmed in at No.5, shortly before the tea break. He proved to be the catalyst, and the method he used to attack Rangana Herath's defensive line oozed with resourcefulness.

Herath operated from over the wicket and pitched wide outside leg stump for most of his 19 overs, which cost 100 and yielded no wickets, but when he did so after tea Sarfraz took guard near the wide-ball indicators outside leg stump and lofted inside-out through covers to beat a packed on-side field. After several such shots, Mathews moved a fielder from the leg to the off, and Sarfraz promptly slogged Herath over the midwicket boundary to take 15 runs off the 29th over, the most expensive of the match.

While Sarfraz made use of his license to run riot, Azhar accumulated briskly in a more organised manner, driving the seamers and sweeping Herath off his negative line. With the field spread deep, Azhar picked off the gaps to get to his half-century off 79 balls, and his 89-run stand with Sarfraz came at a run-a-ball. Pakistan needed 116 off 22.2 overs when Misbah walked in, after Sarfraz had been caught gloving a Shaminda Eranga short ball down the leg side.

Mathews remained defensive despite having a new batsman at the crease and the 40th over of the chase, from Suranga Lakmal, was a defining one. Azhar jumped outside leg and drove, forcing a full-length dive from the deep-cover fielder, the next three balls went to deep point and deep midwicket, before Misbah pulled to the fine-leg boundary. The over cost 12 runs, and Pakistan's momentum was unaffected by Sarfraz's departure.

Despite Azhar and Misbah sweeping and reverse-sweeping Herath at will, irrespective of whether he bowled over or round the wicket, and the left-arm spinner proving utterly ineffective at controlling the run-rate, Mathews did not use his offspinner Dilruwan Perera at all.

Sri Lanka tried to stall the game in the last hour, with Eranga needing prolonged attention from the physio after his arm came into contact with Misbah's helmet, which prompted umpire Richard Kettleborough to ask the physio to stay off the ground when Lakmal fell while collecting a ball. The equation boiled down to 30 off 30 balls, and after three runs off the first two deliveries of the Lakmal over, Azhar cleared his front foot and swung to the midwicket boundary. A ball later, he celebrated a century off 133 balls. The century stand with Misbah had taken only 111.

Even when Pakistan needed 17 off four overs, the field stayed spread. Sri Lanka had actually lost the Test long before the winning runs were hit.

The base for Pakistan's final-session heroics had been laid after the lunch break, when Ahmed Shehzad and Khurram Manzoor came out swinging. As soon as Shehzad flicked Eranga for two fours in the second over and Manzoor charged and slapped Lakmal to the cover boundary in the third, Mathews dispersed his fielders. The approach was helter-skelter and fraught with risk, though. Shehzad eventually mis-hit a slower ball and was caught at deep midwicket, while Manzoor was caught nimbly down the leg side by the wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene. Pakistan had got to 48 at more than five an over.

Azhar began his innings by cutting his second ball fiercely through point, but his partnership with Younis Khan was more measured. With plenty of gaps to exploit, they picked up singles and twos comfortably. They added 49 in 12.4 overs when Younis pulled Mathews straight to midwicket to leave Pakistan on 97 for 3.

Pakistan did not go on the defensive despite losing Younis. Instead, they promoted Sarfraz, and he charged and slogged Mathews to the midwicket boundary in the last over before tea, small indication of the damage he would inflict on Sri Lanka after the break.

Sri Lanka would not have suffered such an embarrassing defeat had they played more periods of this Test with a semblance of the urgency Prasanna showed for an hour this morning. After they scored at 1.87 for 71 overs on the fourth day, Prasanna led the gathering of 62 runs in 14 overs on the last morning. A few wickets, however, forced a dramatic slowdown and Sri Lanka went at a little more than a run an over for the rest of their innings. At the end of the Test, Sri Lanka had batted 273.4 overs; Pakistan needed only 166.4 overs to score a run more. There lay the difference.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Neo on January 23, 2014, 11:18 GMT

    @ Fijicricket No doubt Pakistan played some top class cricket which only a true blind person could not swallow chasing 300+ @5.25 after 30 years............. but your big boyz r getting the thrashing of liftime. lolz

  • Buddhika on January 23, 2014, 4:41 GMT

    @ca2ca SL GIRL doesn't know what he/she tell almost similar to our Chief Selector SJ who doesn't know what he tell. Both of us depreciating our nation.

  • Prashan on January 23, 2014, 3:29 GMT

    @VKohlithegreat please read this cricinfo article. This is what Moin Khan did. All Lankans disapproved time wasting. Hope you recall England's tour of Pakistan which took place after that famous Shakoor Rana incident in 1987!!

  • Abdul on January 22, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    I agree to all the comments made for the Pak and SL team and players except one that is going around about SL being the better team in the series of 3 matches. I think all of those saying that should see the matches again. First match was almost won by the Pakistan team had Angelo not come to save them from losing. Then the second match was won by SL in a normal and usual fashion by Pakistan failing in one innings. Then in third test SL lost the match without a fight even before the match started as commented by the commentators as well. So now pls can someone explain me that how on earth were SL a better team in the series or even equal.

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2014, 4:22 GMT

    Despite all the criticisms Misbah have save Pakistan in many occassions. He scored so many 50's and at the right time. He is one of the great captain after Imran Khan.

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2014, 1:04 GMT

    Being a Sri Lankan, I have been a big follower of Sri Lankan cricket but I think its the time now when I should stop being a fan of Sri Lankan cricket. I never understand why a team just trying to avoid loss even after being the better team for almost 3.5 days (or 4.5 days). Its ok if you try to draw the game which you cannot win (like WI did in NZ or SA did in AG in their last series), but when you have the upper hand, its ridiculous to try to draw the game. I dont think any Sri Lankan captain would do this other than Mathews. This is not the first time he has been so negative (defensive), even against Bangladesh he asked a flat pitch in Galle (thats a Sri Lankan home match), which the road-like pitch ending in a draw. Even after all their ultra-negative (and ridiculous) batting lead by Mathews himself, they would have drawn the game if they tried to get wickets rather than going for saving runs.

  • Nicholas on January 21, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    Anyone who thinks Sri Lanka were unlucky in this match ... or that their tactics were not truly dreadful, needs to read Andy Zaltzman's piece, and the incredible statistics it contains.

  • Yasir on January 21, 2014, 20:27 GMT

    @Fijicricket:Lets apply your own logic to 2 more series...I hope you will like it :)

    When Pakistan was able to white wash Eng in UAE,India could not manage to win from Eng in so called best spinner of the world Ashwin was clueless against Eng team who cannot play spin well.How did that happen? And how was this match boring..How many matches have you watched like that? A target of 300+ being chased in just 58 overs..In Alien conditions where pitch is acting crazy on the 5th day..How many matches were like that in the past? This was one of the most exciting Chases ever..

  • Yasir on January 21, 2014, 20:25 GMT

    @ gham:I am a Pakistani but this comment made me laugh..What exactly do you mean by grooming? How many players did Younis Groom when he was captain? Players like Asad Shafiq,Azhar Ali,Irfan,Talha and many more players came into the team while Misbah was captain..

  • Uwe on January 21, 2014, 20:09 GMT

    @ SL GIRL, you sincerely didn't mean "Well done Sri Lanka" . They just gave the series draw on a silver platter. Haven't won a series for a long time and when you get a chance, starting to play negatively sans sportmanship. I think guys like Sanga, Mahela, Angelo are more interested in bank accounts filling T20's than Country. A big shame. Will they travel to Ireland in May or choose to stay with IPL as in 2012 ? Sri Lanka cricket team shows the mentality of the country. Money, money but no self respect and dignity. Sad time.