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Sa'adi Thawfeeq in Colombo
July 14, 2009
Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara has said his team had expected Pakistan to crack as long as they remained focused on staying in the game, something they hadn't done on the second day. Sangakkara termed his team's seven-wicket win at the P Sara Oval, against the odds, a great achievement and credited his bowlers - Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara - for out-thinking the opposition.
"From where we were yesterday and at lunch today to be here with a match won, I think it's a great achievement," Sangakkara said. "We should be mindful of the fact that we should have batted them out of the game in the first innings and never put ourselves in a position to have turned the match miraculously.
"We've always known that about Pakistan. It's just the case of how long we can continuously exert pressure on them. The key is not to give them too many runs but hold them in as much as possible until that one crack appears and then try and dominate. We were a bit loose yesterday in a couple of sessions, giving away too many singles and boundaries. Today, after a few discussions last evening, we managed to get the field a bit better for the day that helped the bowlers as well."
Sangakkara revealed that on Monday evening he had a chat with his father at home trying to find a way for his team to achieve a breakthrough.
"Pakistan was in such a strong position where they could have gone on to dominate. But a false stroke let us into the middle order with two bowlers doing a fantastic job," Sangakkara said. "Today it was a case where everything went our way. It would have been nice to win a Test match which sees absorbing cricket."
It was the second new ball, taken straight after lunch, that did the trick for Sri Lanka. At that stage Pakistan had lost their captain Younis Khan for 82 but were still strongly placed at 294 for 2 at lunch with Fawad Alam batting on 164. However, the entire complexion of the game changed when Sangakkara tossed the new ball to Herath, who trapped Mohammad Yousuf with his second delivery. From there onwards it was a downward slide for Pakistan.
"We expected the spinners to get some bite off the new ball. If it lands on the shiny side it would slip through and hopefully hit the pads," Sangakkara said. "We walked onto the ground thinking maybe having the two fast bowlers from both ends, but I tossed the ball to Rangana who came up with a wicket in his first over. No matter who bowled we needed someone to stand up and do something special for us. Luckily we had two people today, [Nuwan] Kulasekara and Herath, who bowled marvelously in partnership.
"Rangana's had a lot of success against Pakistan in Pakistan. It just goes to show it doesn't matter whether you are a freak or an unorthodox bowler if you are patient and you bowl a good line and length. Trust yourself to do well, you can do wonders and win matches. Rangana not only bowled a very good line and length, but a lot of revolutions on the ball and put the ball in the right place.
"For the amount of cricket that Rangana has played at home and abroad, he's matured very well. I remember when I was playing my first years of Test cricket it took me a while to understand how I played and what my game was. Once you understand that things become a bit easier and you can do a lot more of what you have. Rangana's really learnt those lessons well. The other thing is he is just hungry. He's been in the wings and unfortunately fighting against two of the best spinners in the world, one of them the best ever. It's unfair in one way."
Praising the bowling of joint Man of the Match, Kulasekara, Sangakkara said: "Nuwan is a bowler whose strength is accuracy and movement. [Chaminda] Vaas is very much the same. Nuwan has worked his butt off the last year and a half and he's got to No. 1 in the world in ODIs so he can't be a bad bowler if that's the case. We picked him looking at the Galle wicket and you can't do anything more than that to impress and press for selection. It's tough for everyone sitting out, especially guys like Vaas who've played years and years and done wonders. The three guys who were picked in the two Tests really deserve their places and they've done a lot of good work."
Having won his first Test series as captain after taking over from his predecessor Mahela Jayawardene, he was wary of the obstacles that lie ahead of him.
"When you are winning you've got to be very careful of the fact that you've got to enjoy the good times but also make sure that you are prepared and the team is prepared that when a bad time comes it doesn't last long and we can bounce straight out of those. It's going to get a lot tougher as the years go by but I think we have the depth and the ability to meet all those challenges."