Regular programming from Pakistan
How dull international cricket would be if not for Pakistan and West Indies. With any other team we would have walked into the ground with hardly any concern, seen two batsmen get half-centuries, had lunch, seen them get the required 97 runs, and gone our way. Not with Pakistan, though, who collapsed so spectacularly they didn't even come close.
As entertainers they might take it as a compliment, but as an international team they ought to take this as a condescending remark. These collapses are no longer unpredictable either. For three days they played exceptional Test cricket, that too for a team that has been playing so infrequently, but in less than one session of madness they undid it all. Even their captain didn't look rattled; this tendency has become so predictable.
Rather Younis Khan seemed resigned, both to the reasons behind the collapse and the implications of it. He thought this inability to handle pressure was a bigger concern than the lack of proper openers for a long time. "The worry is that when we are in control, we don't keep a tight hold on things," Younis said. "I know, at least I believe, we will definitely catch up with them, but why does this always happen? This needs to be addressed. International cricket is all about handling pressure. Look at Kumar Sangakkara, his captaincy was very good under pressure.
"We had 1-0 within our grasp, and now we are minus one. We have to come to zero from here, and then plus one."
But why does this always happen? Younis is ready to make allowance for the inexperience of his side - there were three debutants, and others while vastly experienced in ODIs were generally new to Tests - but added they were not kids either. "The captain can't always keep telling you, nor can the coach or the manager. You can't hold a stick and teach them.
"It has to come from them. The boys also have to do something about it. I can't keep reminding them every time. When I am under pressure, I go back to my basics. They need to go back to basics too. Break it down into small-small sessions, be it batting, be it bowling, be it fielding. It's only a six-hour day, it shouldn't be that difficult."
More than what happened today, the failure to take a huge lead in the first innings annoyed Younis. A typically bother-free innings from Mohammad Yousuf had put Pakistan in the position to get a big lead and bat Sri Lanka out, but the last four added only 48. Sri Lanka's last four in the first innings, in comparison, put together 98. "That was the moment. If at that time we had taken a lead of 150, we would have won easily," Younis said. "Yousuf looked hungry for runs, Kamran was looking good, but both got run-out. In Test matches it's still okay to have one run-out, but if you have two run-outs it becomes very difficult."
Younis didn't take away the credit from Sri Lanka, though. He was full of praise for Sangakkara's tactics - bowling a spinner early and not giving away easy boundaries - and Rangana Herath. He acknowledged Herath's performance in Faisalabad 2004, too, when the left-arm spinner took seven wickets. He also conceded that Pakistan batsmen could have a weakness against left-arm spinners, in that they tend to go a bit across at times and expose the leg-before dismissal.
But it was unmistakable that this match was theirs to lose. That no amount of terrific bowling should have taken eight wickets for 46 runs on this pitch. That they shouldn't have been chasing 168 in the first place. Knowing Pakistan, as Younis said, they could come right back with a completely confounding performance. It will be a spectacle if they indeed do so.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo