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Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: Atiq-uz-Zaman.
Victory gave Jayasuriya his third successive Test series win since taking over the team the previous July. Four and a half years earlier, he had been carrying the towels when Sri Lanka lost by an innings here, before coming back to win that series 2-1 under Ranatunga. Now he was proving himself to be Ranatunga's legitimate heir as Sri Lanka's captain.
His triumph could not have been in greater contrast to Saeed Anwar's latest term in charge of Pakistan; he had lost all three limited-overs internationals and now two Tests. This latest Test defeat was Pakistan's fifth on the trot, and their third successive series defeat at home after losing to Australia and Zimbabwe in 1998-99. To compound Anwar's misery, he was left nursing a bruised nose and sprained neck after running into umpire Mohammad Nazir in his second innings.
With Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq and Moin Khan unavailable through injury or illness, Pakistan's plight had worsened since their narrow defeat at Rawalpindi. In their place came Shoaib Akhtar, off-spinner Arshad Khan and debutant wicket-keeper Atiq-uz-Zaman, while Shahid Afridi replaced Wajahatullah Wasti. Sri Lanka brought in Dilshan and Pushpakumara for the injured Ranatunga and Zoysa. The match was one of fluctuating fortunes, with 27 wickets, 17 of them Pakistan's, falling on the third and fourth days. When the dust settled, Pakistan were 222 for eight, still 72 from victory, and on the final morning Sri Lanka needed just nine balls, three of which were hit for boundaries, to beat the country once reckoned to be nigh invincible at home.
Their hero was spin wizard Muralitharan, who captured ten for 148 runs, taking his tally to 18 in the series. In the first innings, Pakistan had been shaping well at 154 for three in reply to Sri Lanka's 268 but, falling prey to Muralitharan's guile, they lost seven wickets for 45 in 19 overs. Anwar looked to have laid the foundation for a big score with his second successive half-century, only to give his wicket away attempting a second six in four balls. Other than Inzamam-ul-Haq's patient, unbeaten 58, before he ran out of partners, there was little else on offer.
Sri Lanka's first innings, beginning after the first two sessions of the opening day were lost to rain, had revolved around a measured 75 in 254 balls by opener Atapattu. Shoaib claimed five for 75 on his return to Test cricket after being cleared by the ICC following his brief ban for having a suspect bowling action. Second time round, building on a cushion of 69 runs, Sri Lanka accumulated 224 through an enterprising 99 by Arnold, who hit 13 fours and a six in his 192-ball innings spanning five hours. The 53rd player to miss a century by one run - there had been 60 instances in all, but no previous Sri Lankan - Arnold added 79 with de Silva, who batted with a runner after pulling a hamstring earlier in the match. When the stand was broken, Sri Lanka lost their remaining four wickets for 36 runs in 12 overs to give Pakistan a slight chance of squaring the series.
Once more their openers sent them off with a half-century stand. But Inzamam and Aamir Sohail fell victim to controversial decisions, and soon afterwards Anwar had to retire after his collision with umpire Nazir, whose 54th birthday this fourth day was. Pakistan never recovered from these setbacks, despite a dogged 88 from Yousuf Youhana, who completed 1,000 runs in his 17th Test when 45. He hit eight fours and three sixes, and added 63 with Atiq-uz-Zaman before Anwar returned to the fray. As if there had not been enough drama already, Muralitharan brought the day to a grandstand finale by removing Youhana and Waqar Younis with successive balls. He had to wait until the final morning to attempt his hat-trick; it eluded him, but not the tenth wicket that sealed Pakistan's fate.