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Kanishkaa Balachandran in Colombo
June 29, 2012
Pakistan have moved from one Sri Lankan fortress to another. The ramparts of the Galle fort provided the backdrop for the 209-run defeat in the first Test, and their next venue, in Colombo, is as intimidating for visiting teams because of Sri Lanka's record there in recent years.
If Pakistan are to level the series in the second Test, they will have do what no other team has done for eight years - win at the SSC. Since 1984, Sri Lanka have won 17 Tests and lost six here. Their last defeat was in 2004, when Ricky Ponting's Australia won by 121 runs to complete a 3-0 cleansweep. Sri Lanka haven't conceded a single Test since, winning six and drawing five.
Pakistan's record at the venue isn't bad either - they undefeated here. In 1994, the Test was called off before a ball was bowled because of the threat of post-election civil unrest. Pakistan's next match at the SSC was in 1997 - a high-scoring draw. Three years later, Sri Lanka were blown away by the pace of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and the offspin of Arshad Khan. The 2006 contest had big centuries by Shoaib Malik and Kumar Sangakkara but there wasn't enough time for a result. Three years later, with the series already lost, Pakistan salvaged a draw.
Pakistan felt Misbah-ul-Haq's absence in Galle, both as a batsman and captain. His stodginess in the middle order was missed, as was his presence in the field, for his spinners seem to respond better to his fields. It simply wasn't Pakistan's or Mohammad Hafeez's match and it was made worse by the umpiring. Misbah, not the most expressive of captains, had simple advice for his side - wipe the slate clean.
"We have to forget the past and be positive going into the match," Misbah said. "This is how cricket goes, you just can't afford to remember the games you have lost. You have to give 100% in the next game."
The batting was a problem in Galle, with Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Taufeeq Umar failing. Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq found form, but a bit too late. Misbah, however, said it was a combination of factors that let Pakistan down.
"We let them [Sri Lanka] score nearly 500 and that put pressure on us. It's not just our batting, we need to improve our bowling as well," Misbah said. "It was Hafeez's first [Test] as captain, we were playing a Test after a long time. It takes time for any captain to settle down. Sri Lanka batted well too in Galle, a good hunting ground for them."
Misbah said Pakistan's second innings in Galle, which had 80s by Younis and Shafiq, was a sign that the batting was starting to click. "I am confident this batting line-up will come back hard," he said. "They need to remind themselves about the team's form over the last one and a half years and we will pull things back."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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