First Test

Pakistan v Sri Lanka

Brian Murgatroyd

At Faisalabad, October 20, 21, 21, 23, 24, 2004. Sri Lanka won by 201 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka.

If ever a Test could be said to have turned on one delivery, this was it. At 15 for one in their second innings, Sri Lanka still trailed by six runs, when Jayasuriya, on nine, was caught behind off Shoaib Akhtar. It was signalled a no-ball, and Jayasuriya went on to score a wonderfully authoritative, match-winning 253, a record in this fixture.

It would, however, be wrong to put Sri Lanka's success simply down to one man. Samaraweera scored his first Test hundred outside Sri Lanka to help rescue them from nine for three on the first morning; Herath excelled with ball and, more surprisingly, bat; Sangakkara and Jayawardene played important innings on the third day; and Fernando produced an outstanding spell of fast bowling on the fourth evening.

A crushing Sri Lanka win looked a million miles away in the first half-hour of the match as Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami took advantage of early assistance both in the air and off the seam to cut a swathe through the visitors' top order. Mubarak dug in for over an hour and a half, but with Sri Lanka staggering to 147 for six, Pakistan were in charge. Samaraweera, however, was in characteristically dogged mood, found some allies and overcame a bout of cramp. He moved to his fourth Test hundred, off 231 balls, from the first delivery of the second day but perished almost immediately to signal a swift end to the innings, Shoaib Akhtar claiming his ninth five-wicket haul in only his 33rd Test.

By now the pitch appeared benign, but disciplined Sri Lankan bowling and careless batting from Pakistan ensured the match remained evenly poised. The pressure exerted by Vaas and Herath in particular proved too much for Pakistan and although every one of the top seven reached double figures, only Yasir Hameed, in his first Test as an opener, passed 50. The dismissals of Inzamam-ul-Haq, miscuing a slog-sweep tamely to mid-on, and Shoaib Malik, run out as he ran at an angle seeking a needless single to mid-on, were the two most glaring examples of poor judgment. With the last five wickets going down for 37, Pakistan's lead was only 21.

With Atapattu completing his fourth Test pair, that advantage might still have been important had Shoaib Akhtar not overstepped when he found the edge of Jayasuriya's bat. Instead, Sri Lanka galloped along at more than four an over and by tea, in just 43 overs, they had hit 28 fours. Jayasuriya bludgeoned the ball with customary force and reached his 13th Test hundred with a six over mid-wicket off Danish Kaneria. The following day he reached his third double-century with another six - a pull off Shoaib Akhtar - to become the first player to pass both landmarks in one innings with sixes. To make matters worse for Pakistan, Jayasuriya added 101 for the ninth wicket with Fernando - a Sri Lankan record - and shielded his partner so well that he faced just 23 balls out of 102. Fernando did not get off the mark until they had added 70.

By the time Jayasuriya was last man out, having faced 348 balls and hit 33 fours and four sixes in eight hours ten minutes, it was simply a question of whether Pakistan could bat for just over four sessions to save the match. They started positively enough, but then came up against an inspired Fernando, who bowled fast and straight. He found the perfect length, with batsmen unsure whether to go forward or back, and knocked the stuffing out of Pakistan's top order with a spell of four for nine in 36 balls. Sri Lanka wrapped up the match 40 minutes after lunch on the final day. Herath made the important breakthroughs, trapping Yousuf Youhana and Abdul Razzaq legbefore with successive deliveries, and he also had the satisfaction of claiming his best figures when he finished the match by having Shoaib Akhtar stumped. For Pakistan, Malik scored his maiden fifty but there was little else for them to cheer.

Man of the Match: S. T. Jayasuriya.

© John Wisden & Co