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Pakistan, having lost at home to the same opponents 19 months earlier, were in danger of losing a series in Sri Lanka for the first time when they toured in April 1997; they were lucky to emerge unscathed, with both Tests drawn, as it seemed that all the odds were against them.
Two of their best batsmen were unavailable, Saeed Anwar because of a viral complaint and Aamir Sohail suspended on disciplinary charges. Their captain, Wasim Akram, and his fellow fast bowler Waqar Younis both withdrew before the First Test, Wasim suffering pain in his bowling shoulder and Waqar with his left leg in plaster because of a hairline fracture in his foot. The heat and humidity of Colombo in April were intense, and the two young pace bowlers, Mohammed Zahid and Shahid Nazir, who had to take on the responsibility of the new-ball attack, both broke down during the Second Test.
Sri Lanka did not escape injury. Their leading bowler, off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, injured a finger and damaged a muscle under his bowling arm during the First Test, while left-arm medium-pacer Nuwan Zoysa managed only ten overs before straining a leg muscle. Batsman Roshan Mahanama damaged his toe in practice, though his understudy, Russel Arnold, made a promising start in Test cricket.
On the field, the two-match series was dominated by the stylish batting of Aravinda de Silva, who scored three successive centuries, became the first batsman from any country to score two unbeaten hundreds in the same Test and finished the series with 432 runs at 216.00. Also among the runs were Sanath Jayasuriya and the ever-reliable Hashan Tillekeratne, who both scored centuries. For Pakistan, Ijaz Ahmed hit a hundred in the First Test and Salim Malik a match-saving 155 in the Second, where Moin Khan scored 98. Ijaz's tour deteriorated, however, when referee John Reid fined him 20 per cent of his match fee in the Second Test for using foul language after Ranatunga was out, with a further 30 per cent fine suspended for five months.
The spinners were the most successful bowlers. Muralitharan took a career-best six for 98 before his injury in the First Test, when Saqlain Mushtaq claimed nine for Pakistan and Mushtaq Ahmed six; Saqlain finished the series with 14 wickets for 512 runs from 195.1 overs, a marathon effort. But the slow, dead pitches and the overwhelming heat made bowling an exhausting process and helped to work against either Test reaching a result.
Wasim Akram (PIA) (captain), Ramiz Raja (Allied Bank) (vice-captain), Asif Mujtaba (Karachi/PIA), Ijaz Ahmed, sen. (Lahore), Inzamam-ul-Haq (Faislabad/United Bank), Mohammed Wasim (Rawalpindi), Mohammed Zahid (PIA), Moin Khan (Karachi/PIA), Mushtaq Ahmed (Lahore/United Bank), Salim Elahi (United Bank), Salim Malik (Habib Bank), Saqlain Mushtaq (PIA), Shahid Nazir (Faislabad/ National Bank), Waqar Younis (United Bank).
Abdur Razzaq (Lahore) and Mohammed Hussian (Lahore/United Bank) joined the party when Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were injured.
Tour Manager: Nasim-ul-Ghani. Coach: Mushtaq Mohammad.
Tests - Played 2: Drawn 2.
Draws - Sri Lanka (2).
Non-first-class match - Drew v Sri Lankan Board XI.
Match reports for
1st Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS), Apr 19-23, 1997
2nd Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (SSC), Apr 26-30, 1997