Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Lahore January 24, 2009

Seamers shine in spinners' shadow

The only thing better than defeating opponents is crushing them. And the only thing better than that is to do so at their own game

Sri Lanka have built a depth in their pace reserves matched by only a few, but envied by all © AFP

The only thing better than defeating opponents is crushing them. And the only thing better than that is to do so at their own game. The themes before Sri Lanka arrived in Pakistan laid themselves out readily. Spin, Pakistan's batsmen must conquer and likewise pace, the Sri Lankans.

The pitches were bouncier and Pakistan picked six fast men in their squad. All talk was on how best to tackle Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, cricket's M&M, every bit as tasty a prospect as the candy and every bit as vicious as one of the rapper's lines. The only cursory glance cast over Sri Lanka's pace attack was at Chaminda Vaas, for not being here.

Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara became, by default, the men to wait through before the spinners came on and the real game began. Yet with delicious irony and Tillakaratne Dilshan aside, no one contributed more to this series win than Sri Lanka's fast-bowling pair. Together they took one less wicket (nine) than Murali and Mendis, but no one will deny they essentially set up both wins and the series. It has happened more often than people think and it may happen more often.

Without too many people cottoning on, Sri Lanka have built a depth in their pace reserves matched by only a few, but envied by all. Probably the variety cannot be matched. There was something in the pitch today, as well as something in the lights and the atmosphere; in Kulasekara and Thushara they had the men to wring every little bit out of it. They located whereabouts to bowl early on and went about it with considerable verve. The movement they got suggested at times they were playing on a different pitch to Pakistan's bowlers.

Beyond them, Dilhara Fernando is more than just a magnificent mullet. He is tall and hits the bat very hard and if he is erratic, it still means he has days when he can run through sides. Farveez Maharoof every now and again, on particular surfaces, reminds various people wherever he travels of Glenn McGrath. There is to be relished the soon-to-return freakishness of Lasith Malinga. Dammika Prasad has pace, reverse-swing and spunk. And remember, Vaas has not yet retired. Only Maharoof has been a member of their pace attack in this series.

Malinga aside, none of these individuals has perhaps been given the recognition they deserve. And collectively, just the depth of resources has slipped by. It is understandable, and difficult, when you have men such as Murali and Mendis doing things never before seen on a cricket field. But Kulasekara and Thushara are part of what Mahela Jayawardene, the man responsible for deploying this talent, called Sri Lanka's "unsung heroes."

They [our fast bowlers] have been unsung heroes for quite some time because of someone like a Murali, who has taken a bucketful of wickets. Guys like Vaasy have been forgotten, guys who have been doing a lotMahela Jayawardene

"They have been unsung heroes for quite some time because of someone like a Murali, who has taken a bucketful of wickets. Guys like Vaasy have been forgotten, guys who have been doing a lot," he said. "But our pace attack has been really good for the last two to three years and these guys have been pushing each other."

Sri Lanka bid adieu but return soon enough for two Tests. It is likely Pakistan will still focus on how to handle the spinners but they will overlook the pace attack at their own peril. The names will be different, the threat the same.

"There was lot of focus on the two spinners and we were quite happy for them to talk about that because we knew these guys [the fast bowlers], given the right conditions, are very good bowlers and they can create opportunities. They came to the party when required, so Murali and Ajantha have a good group of bowlers around them which is a good thing.

"We have completely different guys coming into the Test series, who have been playing consistently. Dammika, Dilhara and all those guys, even Lasith is coming back. He's played three-four games back home so he will probably be in the squad pretty soon."

As he usually does, Jayawardene's words were calmly uttered, with a smile. Make no mistake, Pakistan - and indeed the world - should heed them as warning.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Khalid on January 26, 2009, 17:04 GMT

    The wicket at Lahore helped fast bowlers and mystriously Malik chose to drop Sohail Tanvir & Shoaib Akhtar, replacing them by a fast bowler & an offspinner. This is really mind-boggling & on two counts, firstly why was Sohail Tanvir dropped and secondly was there any need to draft in another offspinner since Shoaib himself is an offspinner. If Shoaib & Sohail Tanvir were dropped due to their performance then I would like to question playing Shahid Afridi and Misbah, were they also not performing well. one does not require to be a scientist to understand the reason behind these selection goof ups, all this is & has been happening due to the fact that our captains & coaches are allowed to poke their nose is selection matters. This situation will continue unless the PCB decides to stop this consultation process. Pakistan cricket teams should only be selected by the selectors who should decide the playing 11 as well. We need to have a stronger & more powerful selection committee.

  • Satish on January 26, 2009, 11:59 GMT

    @Cannuck, yours is, by far, the most balanced view on the upcoming series I've read. But we wouldn't have much fun, would we, if all of us were to analyse things as they were ;-)

  • KUMARAVEL on January 26, 2009, 4:41 GMT

    @kcrprbath, The only way there is for Srilanka to demolish India as you seem to be suggesting quite prematurely,is to post 300+ scores on a regular basis and hope the Indians go for the hyper attacking cricket and throw away their wickets.Otherwise I don't see it happening.The only player who can single-handedly post such totals for Lankans(against India) is old horse Sanath Jayasurya(sorry, not Sanga or Mahela).Is he up to the task?

  • Rajinda on January 25, 2009, 22:33 GMT

    To abby122354, SL may not have big names as you mentioned, & they may not be as fast as the rest you mentioned. But U don't need sheer pace alone to win cricket matches. If U need proof, look @ Chaminda Vass, one of the most under rated bowlers in cricket. Pace alone don't generate wickets, accuracy, line & length as well as the ability to swing, reverse swing & out think the batsmen does, which I think SL bowlers have proved they have. I admit SL has never generated the kind of fast men IND & PAK have. But as the writer has eluded to, lately the young crop coming out of SL, seems to have the potential to do well. They don't need to dominate every time, as SL have other options like the M&M spin duo. It gives SL more options than other teams to play on different conditions. As the recent PAK series proved, when they made the tracks bouncier to avoid M&M, these bowlers did well to take advantage of it. So don't just write off the SL "pacies" because U don't know their names yet!

  • Rajinda on January 25, 2009, 22:13 GMT

    I have to say FANS in the sub continent have very short memories when it comes to cricket. Especially when their teams win big, all the previous failures are forgotten, making their team the world's best. As a SL living in Canada I know that passion, which drives cricket in the subcontinent. But I think U guys debating about the up coming IND/SL ODI series should chill out a bit, because the reality is far from what all of you are yelling about. 4 jokerbala/ceylonrana, yes SL beat IND, but only in the test series last year, & that was when Kumble was heading a leaking ship. In case you forgot, Dhoni turned it around and beat SL in the ODI series in SL. 4 SachinIsTheGreatest & the rest defending the IND pride, while I acknowledge the success IND has had since then, U have to admit that SL has done well against U including the ASIA cup finals. SL fast bowlers have lot of experience since then, & with Malinga coming back, the top order in form, it'll be a tight contest this time around!

  • Satish on January 25, 2009, 15:04 GMT

    @ceylonrana, for all I would care Mendis could have taken 80 wickets in the series, the fact remains it was only a 2-1 defeat, not a 2-0 thumping India gave to Sri Lanka when they were here. However, you are indeed right. No arguments about Sri Lanka at Colombo, and Dambulla. Home is about the only place SL win anyway. Finally, lets not get into Statsguru too much. It might uncomfortably expose things about Sri Lanka you might not like. See you indeed...soon!!

  • abby on January 25, 2009, 13:28 GMT

    :S i dont get thiss all these comments about how indias batsmen will fail to sri lanka r u serious? indias batsmen dominated last year Gambhir had a golden year, sehwag was back to his best, sachin was chipping in when needed, yuvi found some form at the end of the year, dhoni is doing the hardyards when needed, raina is in alright form doesnt anyone remember this same indian team a year ago that beat australia in their own backyard 2-0 in the final and in the that series india faced australia 6 times, winning 3 losing 2 and no result one match and i doubt players like Malinga, Vaas, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara, Dilhara Fernando and Mahroof are in the same league as players such as Brett Lee (in form), Mitchell Johnson, Andrew Flintoff, Nathan bracken, those are just 4 of the fast bowlers india have had to face in the past year in ODI cricket the best pace attack for me is joint between indias and south africa. best fast bowler atm is Zaheer Khan

  • Rasika on January 25, 2009, 12:06 GMT

    Hey Mr. SachinISTheGreatest... I want to tell you some thing. You talk about the "HYPE'. I like to ask you that what happened in the last time in Sri Lanka. In the test series. Before Indian team came to Sri Lanka people told that there is a VERY BIG HYPE about Mendis. Then what happen??? Out of your 60 wickets in the test series Mendis took 26 wickets alone. This is Sri Lankan soil. Please refer the statsguru for the winning percentages about R.Premadasa & Dambulla grounds. You will find answers. Also in very near future you can see how Indian team totally go down by the HYPE. C you then....

  • Satish on January 25, 2009, 10:03 GMT

    Time and again, I am amazed at the hype Sri Lanka manage to generate. After the 2007 World Cup final, I think the only competition of note they seem to have won is the Asia Cup. They have recently struggled to beat Bangladesh, have just about beaten an out-of-practice Pakistan and are languishing at 7th in the ODI ratings, still they seem to be having the best of everything. Of course, all these wonderful bowlers were around last time India beat Sri Lanka 3-2. For sure memories are short when India wins.

  • Prbath on January 25, 2009, 9:43 GMT

    Mr.jokerbala wait and see what is going to happen to Indian Cricket team, i feel sorry for Indians, Srilanken's will beat India quit easily in srilanka, and remember what happened to Pakisthan and Yesterday and it Call Demolition, remember what Happened to India in ASIA CUP final, it also Call Demolition, and remember what is going to Happen in the next series, it also call Demolition, or you can put the word trashing if you want,you may beat Australia and England, in India or where ever but you are not going to beat Srilanka like Australia or England specially in srilanka,

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