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Test matches (2): Sri Lanka 0, Pakistan 1
One-day internationals (3): Sri Lanka 0, Pakistan 2
Pakistan maintained their unbeaten Test-series record in Sri Lanka with a hard-fought 1-0 victory, and took the one-day series for good measure, which was significant as it kept Sri Lanka out of the top six of the rankings and forced them to pre-qualify for the 2006 Champions Trophy.
With a new-look pace attack spearheaded by 23-year-old Mohammad Asif, Pakistan showed great resilience to salvage a draw in Colombo, grinding out more than four sessions against Muttiah Muralitharan. Then they overpowered their opponents inside three days on a spiteful Kandy pitch to clinch the series, bowling out Sri Lanka for just 73.
Sri Lanka had some excuses: their hectic schedule during the previous six months took its toll on key players, including captain Marvan Atapattu, who withdrew after the first one-dayer with a recurrence of back trouble, and the fast-bowling linchpin Chaminda Vaas, forced out with a side strain. As a result, Mahela Jayawardene continued as skipper, with Kumar Sangakkara as vice-captain. It heralded a major transformation in the Sri Lankan team, with several new young players being given extended opportunities.
Pakistan were without Shoaib Akhtar, their enigmatic spearhead, who was recovering from surgery on a degenerative knee condition. The pace attack was also missing Mohammad Sami, dropped after failing to impress against India, and Shabbir Ahmed, given a year-long ban to sort out his action. Then Naved-ul-Hasan, the most experienced fast bowler left standing, missed both Tests because his wife fell ill. The batting was also affected - Mohammad Yousuf missed the First Test with a hamstring injury, while Shoaib Malik, a hero in Colombo for his eight-hour 148, was ill for Kandy.
Pakistan's pace attack was thus very green, but Asif ensured that it still had bite. He was named Man of the Series after his devastating 11 for 71 at Kandy. Sri Lanka's batsmen, facing him for the first time, had to cope with both his excellent direction and disconcerting - occasionally alarming - lateral movement at a lively pace. Asif was ultimately the difference between the two teams, and he finished with 17 wickets at 10.76 in the Tests.
The build-up to the Second Test was dominated by the farewell to Sanath Jayasuriya, who had decided to call time on his Test career after the selectors suggested he should concentrate on one-day cricket leading up to the 2007 World Cup. Jayasuriya struggled in the first innings, then badly dislocated his right thumb taking a catch in the gully. It was no way for Sri Lanka's leading run-scorer to bow out, and indeed he was back in contention two months later after a new selection panel asked him to help out in England.
Match reports for
1st ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS), Mar 17, 2006
2nd ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS), Mar 19, 2006
3rd ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (SSC), Mar 22, 2006
1st Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (SSC), Mar 26-30, 2006
2nd Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Kandy, Apr 3-5, 2006