At Sharjah, November 3-7, 2011. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: C. K. B. Kulasekara.
In an age of wisecracking tweeters and the ubiquitous, anonymous army of bloggers and online commentators, Misbah-ul-Haq has inspired his fair share of the regular hatred that plagues modern life. To many, his time as Test captain had inexcusably drained the colour from Pakistan sides (two defeats in big games against India did not help). But regardless of the results - or that, in any case, the idea of Pakistan as a traditionally attractive, attacking side was overblown - the kind of last act seen here was what he had been judged on.
Once rain - rain in Sharjah! - had wiped out the morning session of the final day, Pakistan were left 61 overs to chase 255 for a 2-0 series win. They teased for about five overs until Mohammad Hafeez was run out, and then didn't so much shut up shop as deny it ever existed in the first place. When both captains decided enough was enough, with 57 overs gone, Pakistan had gone nowhere at 87 for four. Fittingly, Misbah was there at the end, dead-batting his way to an unbeaten nine off 86 balls, in 97 minutes, to make certain of the series win.
There was previous. In the First Test in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan had been denounced in some quarters for not attempting to go after a Twenty20ish target of 170 in 21 overs. And at the start of the year at Wellington, they had preferred sealing victory in the series to a chase of 274. Yet the game started against the backdrop of the spot-fixing trial at Southwark Crown Court, and ended up providing a reminder of how far Pakistan had already dragged themselves from those bleak times. In the run-up to this Test, the side had been following the final developments of the trial of men they had played with. The sentences were handed down on the first day.
That this Test marked the return of Sharjah to the international map was only a quirk of scheduling, if a darkly ironic one. This was the first Test for nine years on a ground banished because of the very shadows of corruption; though refurbished and bidding for redemption, the stadium retained its intimacy and a little character too. Held over the Eid holidays, it attracted a fair turnout.
And had it not rained that final morning, who knows where it would have gone? Sri Lanka had worked themselves assiduously into their first position of strength in the series. Another hundred from Sangakkara and a belated return to form for Dilshan - finally back at the top of the order - had set it up on the first day. Sangakkara's ton went by as a matter of course, a procession of landmarks on the way: he was the second Sri Lankan to 9,000 Test runs, following Mahela Jayawardene, but the fastest from anywhere to get there in terms of innings (172; Rahul Dravid is next with 176).
Pakistan never looked interested in chasing matters, and a slow pitch did not help. Younis Khan's third-day hundred already felt like an innings played to save a Test, more so for the dawdling support he got from Misbah (333 minutes for 89) and Azhar Ali. By the time Pakistan were done with their first innings - at 2.45 an over - the match was well into the fourth day. Sri Lanka did at least try to push on, Sangakkara yet again showing the way with a bright half-century, but the rain on the fifth morning dampened the entire equation. Not that Misbah would have chased a target, even given more time.
Man of the Match: K. C. Sangakkara. Men of the Series: Pakistan - Saeed Ajmal; Sri Lanka - K. C. Sangakkara. Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 245-2 (Sangakkara 112, Jayawardene 32); Second day, Pakistan 35-2 (Azhar Ali 10, Younis Khan 0); Third day, Pakistan 282-6 (Misbah-ul-Haq 50, Abdur Rehman 3); Fourth day, Sri Lanka 164-5 (Paranavitana 66, Kulasekara 4).