Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 5th day July 12, 2012

Draw takes shine off Sri Lanka victory

Mahela Jayawardene made sure he achieved that elusive Test series win for Sri Lanka, but critics will always argue that the hosts should have finished better
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When Kumar Sangakkara and Misbah-ul-Haq shook hands with just under an hour left on the fifth day in Pallekele, the disbelief was palpable. Sri Lanka were sitting safe on a 1-0 series lead and needed 76 off a minimum of nine overs to make a mockery of Misbah's declaration. It wasn't unattainable by any means. The hosts had six wickets in hand, with a well-set Sangakkara on 74, and were batting on a track that had flattened out considerably after the first day. Then everyone, unexpectedly, had an early evening off. The finality to it all didn't seem right. ESPNcricinfo's commentary feedback was flooded with mails after the game, which questioned Sri Lanka's reluctance to push for a win. Criticism might come in from all corners, but it can't be denied that Sri Lanka attained what they set out to do at the start of the series. They were starved of a Test series win, home and away, with the last one coming in August 2009. The wait finally ended.

There were murmurs, prior to this win, that the hangover of Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement had not ended. The facts supported that. After Murali called it a day two years ago, Sri Lanka went winless over the next six Test series. In that period, the captaincy changed hands from Sangakkara, to Tillakaratne Dilshan and then to Mahela Jayawardene for a second stint. Sangakkara gave it up after the 2011 World Cup, Dilshan had to take over the leadership because, seemingly, nobody else wanted it. After he gave it up, Jayawardene was the only logical choice. Former captains and commentators rate him among the most astute captains in current cricket. Taking over after the South Africa tour last year, Jayawardene failed to register a win against England, Sri Lanka drawing the home series 1-1 in March. Now, he made sure he achieved that elusive win against Pakistan, but critics will always argue that his team should have finished better.

Sri Lanka's decision to not go after the win was similar to MS Dhoni's perplexing move last year in the Dominica Test against West Indies, when play was called off with India needing 86 off 90 balls with seven wickets in hand to seal a 2-0 series win. That flat ending took the gloss away from India's 1-0 win.

That even Pakistan captain Misbah was caught off guard by early finish in this Test was telling. "Chasing 270 in 71 overs is not an easy task, but after the start [Sri Lanka got] and being 150 for 2, and when you need less than four an over, that was the time they could have taken the game away from us," Misbah said. "I was really surprised they put the shutters down and never tried to go for the runs. I don't know what happened … the way the wicket was behaving, scoring was really easy on it, they could have gone for the target."

Jayawardene, though, didn't look back at the scoreline of 1-0 with any regrets. "I think it's fair to say that the attitude was to win," Jayawardene said. "I think we cruised until the last hour and half. But when I got out, we said 'no, we'll close shop'. We said that it's probably not worth it, because they had a very negative field set, cramming our guys. [We said] let's not take too many risks at the end because we're one up in the series."

He said chasing 270 in 71 overs was always going to be tricky, even on a batting track. "Unfortunately, we couldn't pick up early wickets this morning. It would have been much easier for us chasing 220; 270 is always going to be tough but I thought the boys batted really well," he said. "They came on the fourth innings against a quality attack and they put us in a position to win a Test."

Not for the first time, Jayawardene brought up a question asked at the start of the tour, in May, about Sri Lanka going into the series as "underdogs". "Even in the one-dayers, no one gave us a chance. I remember in the first press conference someone asked about a 4-1 win for Pakistan," Jayawardene said. "But to come out winning the one-dayers and Test series, a lot of credit should go to the boys."

It may have felt good to put it across on the field, but Sri Lanka will know their biggest challenge ahead is maintaining a level of consistency at home. For now, they can savour this win against an opposition which, on the contrary, hadn't experienced a Test series defeat in close to two years.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY yorkslanka on | July 14, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    Why don't ppl realise 1-0 or 2-0 is still a series win but if we had lost the game by trying to go for the total we would have thrown away the series...Pakistan has a very good bowling attack and were capable of doing this if we played stupid cricket.mahela did exactly the right thing and I applaud them for it...once we start winning more series,then we can look at more victories in the series..

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    This is the reason to cancel test cricket........... even after five tormenting days without result. We should have a super over for draw tests as well

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 9:35 GMT

    Poor article. SL were never going to get that total from the moment Chandimal got out and the experienced heads like Sanga and Mahela know a bit more than the folk commenting on here. There was never a case for a pinch hitter promotion. The moment you disrespect the game, test cricket has a funny way of biting you from behind. Pakistan were always in control in terms of the run rate. Remember in test cricket, there are no fielding restrictions, no bouncer restrictions and umpires don't call wides the same way as ODI cricket. Under those conditions, the team that tries to score quickly will end up losing wickets in a heap against a quality attack like Pakistan posses.

  • POSTED BY suve on | July 13, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    @nlambda: Mahela doesn't need to take tips from "Dhoni's Playbook", Mahela became captain when Dhoni was still a youngster, So Mahela has more experience than Dhoni. I respect Mahela and Sangakkara's decisions as they're very smart cricketers. The Defensive field in the morning was to cut out the runs, so Sri Lanka will be able chase down the target and keep the match alive. You can't say Adnan Akmal and Asad are tail enders because they are top Batsmen mate.

  • POSTED BY getsetgopk on | July 13, 2012, 7:47 GMT

    It does take the shine off given that the first Test was completely umpires induced victory, Misbah gave them a chance but even then they chose not to redeem themselves.

  • POSTED BY mohanan on | July 13, 2012, 6:44 GMT

    I think After the first wicket fell, Mahela should have sent his tail enders like Thisara and Kula to try and score some quick runs, so that he can try for a win with minimum risk. Some times, a loss is worthier than a boring draw.

  • POSTED BY deadflat on | July 13, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    WHEN PEOPLE ASK EVEN THOUGH MAKING LOTS OF RUNS WHY SANGAKAR AND MAHELA NEVER CONSIDERED TO BE GREAT PLAYERS, THIS IS THE REASON.

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 5:19 GMT

    SL tried to score 270 in two sessions (270 is pretty much the average score for the whole day's play in this series) when Samaraweera got out things became difficult to score freely. Sanga's choice was very wise and appropriate to take the series safely rather than get greedy . I would like to ask Mr. Balachandran when was the last time he has seen a team score 76 runs in 9 overs in a test match? in the last innings??. May be if the team is leading by two matches!!.

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    I was very disaapionted to see that sril lanka would have tried to win the match, after having a good start. This type of attitude was not right and that also on their home ground.

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | July 13, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    Who wanna draw series if you had the chance of winning already there? Criticizers are in fools paradise...First it was Dhoni then Mahela...no wonder why captains this like that.

  • POSTED BY yorkslanka on | July 14, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    Why don't ppl realise 1-0 or 2-0 is still a series win but if we had lost the game by trying to go for the total we would have thrown away the series...Pakistan has a very good bowling attack and were capable of doing this if we played stupid cricket.mahela did exactly the right thing and I applaud them for it...once we start winning more series,then we can look at more victories in the series..

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    This is the reason to cancel test cricket........... even after five tormenting days without result. We should have a super over for draw tests as well

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 9:35 GMT

    Poor article. SL were never going to get that total from the moment Chandimal got out and the experienced heads like Sanga and Mahela know a bit more than the folk commenting on here. There was never a case for a pinch hitter promotion. The moment you disrespect the game, test cricket has a funny way of biting you from behind. Pakistan were always in control in terms of the run rate. Remember in test cricket, there are no fielding restrictions, no bouncer restrictions and umpires don't call wides the same way as ODI cricket. Under those conditions, the team that tries to score quickly will end up losing wickets in a heap against a quality attack like Pakistan posses.

  • POSTED BY suve on | July 13, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    @nlambda: Mahela doesn't need to take tips from "Dhoni's Playbook", Mahela became captain when Dhoni was still a youngster, So Mahela has more experience than Dhoni. I respect Mahela and Sangakkara's decisions as they're very smart cricketers. The Defensive field in the morning was to cut out the runs, so Sri Lanka will be able chase down the target and keep the match alive. You can't say Adnan Akmal and Asad are tail enders because they are top Batsmen mate.

  • POSTED BY getsetgopk on | July 13, 2012, 7:47 GMT

    It does take the shine off given that the first Test was completely umpires induced victory, Misbah gave them a chance but even then they chose not to redeem themselves.

  • POSTED BY mohanan on | July 13, 2012, 6:44 GMT

    I think After the first wicket fell, Mahela should have sent his tail enders like Thisara and Kula to try and score some quick runs, so that he can try for a win with minimum risk. Some times, a loss is worthier than a boring draw.

  • POSTED BY deadflat on | July 13, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    WHEN PEOPLE ASK EVEN THOUGH MAKING LOTS OF RUNS WHY SANGAKAR AND MAHELA NEVER CONSIDERED TO BE GREAT PLAYERS, THIS IS THE REASON.

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 5:19 GMT

    SL tried to score 270 in two sessions (270 is pretty much the average score for the whole day's play in this series) when Samaraweera got out things became difficult to score freely. Sanga's choice was very wise and appropriate to take the series safely rather than get greedy . I would like to ask Mr. Balachandran when was the last time he has seen a team score 76 runs in 9 overs in a test match? in the last innings??. May be if the team is leading by two matches!!.

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 4:56 GMT

    I was very disaapionted to see that sril lanka would have tried to win the match, after having a good start. This type of attitude was not right and that also on their home ground.

  • POSTED BY Fast_Track_Bully on | July 13, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    Who wanna draw series if you had the chance of winning already there? Criticizers are in fools paradise...First it was Dhoni then Mahela...no wonder why captains this like that.

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 3:28 GMT

    Is that MJ learning from MSD or MSD learning from great MJ ?

  • POSTED BY on | July 13, 2012, 3:27 GMT

    Last year Dhoni was similarly criticized, but even on that occasion India were 1-0 up - teams do not tend to over-exert themselves once the series is secured. Its not fair to criticize teams/skippers when they do 'not go for the win'.

  • POSTED BY likeintcricket on | July 13, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    Congratulations to Sri Lanka on their maiden victory but as expected Pakistan proves to be a better team in the last two test matches with Misbah playing. In the third Test Pakistan played on a lively track but the second day wash out kills the game. The series is played without DRS which nullifies Pakistanis spinners advantage and the first Test is remembered for so many bad umpiring decisions. This Pak team has a good future ahead and they showed their victory against England and Srilanka earlier wasn't fluke.

  • POSTED BY Mutukisna on | July 12, 2012, 23:00 GMT

    Yes, it would have been nice to see Sri Lanka push for victory as the target was achievable despite the absence of Dilshan as Chandimal proved to be a worthy replacement. Perera and Mathews should have been promoted ahead of Mahela and Samaraweera, with Sangakkara playing the sheet anchor role. And if Perera and Matthews were dismissed cheaply, then the trio of Sanga, Mahela & Thilan would have ensured that the game was safe. Anyway, all Sri Lankan supporters should be satisfied with the result when compared with the utterly abominable capitulation at the Cardiff Test match. That performance was so disappointing to all Sri Lankan supporters. It is better to see the Sri Lanka Team developing a mentality of ensuring that defeat against them is not a possibility in the first instance, before embarking on any sights of victory. At the end of the day (today), no complaints, and well done, Messers Ford & Jayawardena!

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 21:57 GMT

    i totally agree with Krish Ravi's comment.While sanga & Chandimal were batting, my intention was if sanga got out mahela should come in, if chandimal got out Perera should come up the order.some times perera had got out cheeply, you loose nothing in this kind of situation.Even after mahela got out, could have tried Perera.you still have Samaraweera & Angelo to shut up shop.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    While Lanka dominated the ODIs,1-0 probably isn't a fair reflection because Pakistan were in control in the 2nd test,then rain spoiled it. In the 1st test,so many poor decisions cost Pakistan the game. But then this is part and parcel of the game maybe. There will be days when Pakistan will be on the other side of it. Pakistan shouldn't be dissapointed. The likes of Azhar Ali,Shafiq have done them proud,these 2 surely are ones for the future. Junaid Khan is the biggest plus. To run on those slow,low wickets and bowl like that is great. Umar Gul had a poor series but he's a class bowler and people shouldn't forget it. Sami,as usual was inconsistent and he surely needs to be dropped. Pakistan need a good attacking 3rd seamer. Also,Pakistan need to improve their fielding by a long long way. I don't know why Pakistan doen't give importance to their fielding. Even their youngsters aren't athletic. Indians and Lankas are way ahead of them in this aspect. Read[Kohli,Raina,Sharma]

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 20:56 GMT

    Mahela not going for a win was the right cricketing decision given the circumstances and the position of the series. However Mahela has contradicted of what he said few weeks ago branding himself as a captain who always goes for a win. Mahela is widly respected all around the cricketing world therefore he doesn't want to lose credibility by making such comments. Let those talks handled by the cricinfo writers.

  • POSTED BY rajithwijepura on | July 12, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    Sri Lanka were underdogs at the stat of the series and drew the T20 by 1-1 and then won the ODI series by 3-1 after loosing first ODI. And then Won the Test series. What else could you ask from him. Remember we lost a whole 90 overs of the 2nd day. WIN is WIN. Doesn't matter if it is 1-0 or 2-0 or 3-0.

  • POSTED BY khurramsch on | July 12, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    i do agree that they could have gone to chase the target but i do not agree that they stopped it when 76 off 9 overs needed. they stoped it right after tea when mahela came to bat. 76 of 9 overs in test not a easy task. but MJ was right in his choice. he atained what they couldnt in past 3 years.also who will remebr this for long?we didnt rember that MSD called off when 86 of 90 balls required onlything we rember that india won series vs them.

  • POSTED BY nlambda on | July 12, 2012, 19:38 GMT

    Glad to see Mahela learning from our great MS Dhoni. Why bother winning 2-0 when 1-0 satisfies you completely? The defensive, lacklustre bowling and fielding to the tail-enders in the morning was also right from Dhoni's playbook.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:58 GMT

    i mean seriously don't this cricinfo guys knows that SL have to go after ajmal and junaid with no field restriction on ?? they can ball wide as they can, no wide problems , can put fielders any where they like , seriously this guys trying to criticize SL always . especially when we have a good collapsing record with Pakistan it be would have been a suicide to go after that win in a higher RR.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    Disappointed in Mahela on not going for the win, especially since he prides himself on being an attacking captain who only plays to win. A shuffle in the order by moving perera in front of Mahela, would of been a better option. If it payed off they would of won the game and if he had got out relatively cheap, they could of easily shut up shop with the long batting lineup.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:15 GMT

    @Kanishkaa Balachandran you can take the shine off the victory by this topic for few days , but the record books will updates as sri lanka won the series, i dunno why you trying to criticize SL series win ?

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    To avoid anti-climactic draws and make test matches more meaningful, maybe the option for the captains to call off play in the last hour should now be taken away. Allow audience a more exciting finish and the spectators their money's worth while reducing the number of draws in test cricket.

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  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    To avoid anti-climactic draws and make test matches more meaningful, maybe the option for the captains to call off play in the last hour should now be taken away. Allow audience a more exciting finish and the spectators their money's worth while reducing the number of draws in test cricket.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:15 GMT

    @Kanishkaa Balachandran you can take the shine off the victory by this topic for few days , but the record books will updates as sri lanka won the series, i dunno why you trying to criticize SL series win ?

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    Disappointed in Mahela on not going for the win, especially since he prides himself on being an attacking captain who only plays to win. A shuffle in the order by moving perera in front of Mahela, would of been a better option. If it payed off they would of won the game and if he had got out relatively cheap, they could of easily shut up shop with the long batting lineup.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 18:58 GMT

    i mean seriously don't this cricinfo guys knows that SL have to go after ajmal and junaid with no field restriction on ?? they can ball wide as they can, no wide problems , can put fielders any where they like , seriously this guys trying to criticize SL always . especially when we have a good collapsing record with Pakistan it be would have been a suicide to go after that win in a higher RR.

  • POSTED BY nlambda on | July 12, 2012, 19:38 GMT

    Glad to see Mahela learning from our great MS Dhoni. Why bother winning 2-0 when 1-0 satisfies you completely? The defensive, lacklustre bowling and fielding to the tail-enders in the morning was also right from Dhoni's playbook.

  • POSTED BY khurramsch on | July 12, 2012, 19:48 GMT

    i do agree that they could have gone to chase the target but i do not agree that they stopped it when 76 off 9 overs needed. they stoped it right after tea when mahela came to bat. 76 of 9 overs in test not a easy task. but MJ was right in his choice. he atained what they couldnt in past 3 years.also who will remebr this for long?we didnt rember that MSD called off when 86 of 90 balls required onlything we rember that india won series vs them.

  • POSTED BY rajithwijepura on | July 12, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    Sri Lanka were underdogs at the stat of the series and drew the T20 by 1-1 and then won the ODI series by 3-1 after loosing first ODI. And then Won the Test series. What else could you ask from him. Remember we lost a whole 90 overs of the 2nd day. WIN is WIN. Doesn't matter if it is 1-0 or 2-0 or 3-0.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 20:56 GMT

    Mahela not going for a win was the right cricketing decision given the circumstances and the position of the series. However Mahela has contradicted of what he said few weeks ago branding himself as a captain who always goes for a win. Mahela is widly respected all around the cricketing world therefore he doesn't want to lose credibility by making such comments. Let those talks handled by the cricinfo writers.

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    While Lanka dominated the ODIs,1-0 probably isn't a fair reflection because Pakistan were in control in the 2nd test,then rain spoiled it. In the 1st test,so many poor decisions cost Pakistan the game. But then this is part and parcel of the game maybe. There will be days when Pakistan will be on the other side of it. Pakistan shouldn't be dissapointed. The likes of Azhar Ali,Shafiq have done them proud,these 2 surely are ones for the future. Junaid Khan is the biggest plus. To run on those slow,low wickets and bowl like that is great. Umar Gul had a poor series but he's a class bowler and people shouldn't forget it. Sami,as usual was inconsistent and he surely needs to be dropped. Pakistan need a good attacking 3rd seamer. Also,Pakistan need to improve their fielding by a long long way. I don't know why Pakistan doen't give importance to their fielding. Even their youngsters aren't athletic. Indians and Lankas are way ahead of them in this aspect. Read[Kohli,Raina,Sharma]

  • POSTED BY on | July 12, 2012, 21:57 GMT

    i totally agree with Krish Ravi's comment.While sanga & Chandimal were batting, my intention was if sanga got out mahela should come in, if chandimal got out Perera should come up the order.some times perera had got out cheeply, you loose nothing in this kind of situation.Even after mahela got out, could have tried Perera.you still have Samaraweera & Angelo to shut up shop.