Tour review

Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 2012

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

Test matches (3): Sri Lanka 1, Pakistan 0
One-day internationals (5): Sri Lanka 3, Pakistan 1
Twenty20 internationals (2): Sri Lanka 1, Pakistan 1


Kumar Sangakkara drives one down the ground, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 5th day, July 12, 2012
Kumar Sangakkara twice missed out on a double-century in the Tests © AFP
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Sri Lanka's close-run victory arrested a worrying sequence of eight Test series without a win, and blotted the copybook of Misbah-ul-Haq, who had not lost any of the seven in which he had previously captained Pakistan. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the only defeat, in the First Test at Galle, came under the leadership of Mohammad Hafeez while Misbah served a one-match ban for his team's slow over-rate in the final one-day international.

It was the fourth time since February 2009 that these sides had met in a Test series - but still the Decision Review System had not played a part. Pakistan were on the receiving end of several poor umpiring decisions during their 209-run loss, prompting both Hafeez and Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene to request that the DRS be used in all Test series; Jayawardene renewed his appeal for the ICC to help make up the cost on behalf of poorer boards, such as his own.

Dav Whatmore, Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup-winning coach, but now working with Pakistan, was especially displeased. "The home board had [the DRS] against England. Why aren't we having it here?" he asked. "It doesn't seem right to me where you have it for one series and not for the other. It's difficult to understand." Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga hit back: whereas the ECB, he said, had agreed to help foot the bill for the DRS when England visited in March and April, the Pakistan Cricket Board were less willing. It was just as well that Pakistan did not seek to blame their defeat on umpiring decisions: poor fielding, and regular stoppages for rain, were just as crucial.

Sri Lanka could have won 2-0, but Jayawardene was not prepared to risk throwing away a series victory - their first since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan - by attempting a target of 270 in 71 overs on the last day of the final Test, at Pallekele. Sri Lanka used up 62 overs in reaching 195 for four, reluctant to chance their arm against Saeed Ajmal, who took 15 wickets, and Junaid Khan, who finished with 14 and an enhanced reputation for prowess with the old ball. He went a long way to compensating for Pakistan's other seamers, who managed only two wickets between them. It was unclear whether the continued absence of a bowling coach - Aqib Javed had left to take charge of the UAE national team in March - was a serious factor. Ajmal was Pakistan's principal threat but, after the Sri Lankan authorities alerted match referee David Boon to their concerns about his bowling action in the opening Test, his menace diminished.

After the heavy defeat at Galle - Pakistan's first in 11 Tests stretching back to May 2011 - their batsmen found their feet. The two junior members, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, each scored hundreds, and Hafeez bounced back from a dreadful run of form with 196 in the Second Test, in Colombo. This was Pakistan's best chance to level the series, but they were frustrated by the weather and the famously benign pitch at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Sri Lanka's batting was stitched together by Kumar Sangakkara, who had an outstanding series, scoring 490 runs and propelling his career average against Pakistan to 89. He was in prime form, though he was twice deprived of a ninth Test double-century: stranded on 199 not out at Galle when he ran out of partners, he was caught off a careless shot on 192 at the SSC. Tillekeratne Dilshan also made centuries in the first two Tests, but stepped down from the Third when one of his children was taken ill. His decision came in the early hours before the game, and forced Sri Lanka to bring in Dinesh Chandimal as a stopgap opener, an unfamiliar role to which he adjusted well.

Sri Lanka struggled to settle on a new-ball combination once Chanaka Welagedara was ruled out of the series with a torn shoulder muscle. The onus fell once more on the spinners, principally Rangana Herath, who bowled 171.3 overs across the three Tests and took 15 wickets. But, after taking seven at Galle, Suraj Randiv provided little control in Colombo, and made way for an additional seamer in the lusher conditions at Pallekele.

Pace bowlers were pleasantly surprised by the movement and bounce on offer in the limited-overs matches, especially at Pallekele and Colombo's Premadasa Stadium, a trend partly explained by playing at night in June, and on relaid surfaces.

Sri Lanka won the one-day internationals 3-1. Excluding victory in a triangular tournament with Scotland and Ireland, this was their first win in eight one-day series or competitions since beating West Indies at home in early 2011. The outstanding performer was Tissara Perera, who encouraged the belief that he and Angelo Mathews could provide Sri Lanka with two accomplished all-rounders in all forms of the game - so long as they could stay fit.

As for Pakistan, they had to settle for a share of the Twenty20 series at the start of the tour. But by the end, that had been long forgotten.

Match reports for

1st T20I: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Hambantota, Jun 1, 2012
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2nd T20I: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Hambantota, Jun 3, 2012
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1st ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Pallekele, Jun 7, 2012
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2nd ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Pallekele, Jun 9, 2012
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3rd ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS), Jun 13, 2012
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4th ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS), Jun 16, 2012
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5th ODI: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (RPS), Jun 18, 2012
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1st Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Galle, Jun 22-25, 2012
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2nd Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Colombo (SSC), Jun 30-Jul 4, 2012
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3rd Test: Sri Lanka v Pakistan at Pallekele, Jul 8-12, 2012
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© John Wisden & Co.