Pakistan have not won a Test series since beating England 3-0 in the UAE more than two years ago. Since then, they have won three Tests out of 15 and lost nine. Playing Tests after a gap of more than six months, their winless run continued as they were whitewashed by Sri Lanka for the first time. Misbah-ul-Haq said that his team was mainly outplayed by the brilliance of Rangana Herath.
"Credit should be given to them the way they outplayed us but I still feel Herath was the only difference," Misbah said. "It's always difficult to take 2-0 defeat in Test cricket. It's a part of the game but you haven't lost to a low-ranked team. Sri Lanka are a fine side and recently won a series against England. So they have been playing well. Losing to them isn't really a humiliation as they played better cricket them us.
Herath was the name that dominated the Pakistan camp both on and off the field. He picked nine wickets in the first innings at SSC and another five in the second. Apart from Sarfraz Ahmed, who has played only eight Tests, none of the Pakistan batsmen were comfortable facing him. Over the last 10 years, Pakistan have given away 88 wickets to Herath.
Asked if Pakistan had a weakness against the left-arm spin of Herath, Misbah said, "We played him pretty well in last series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but this time he bowled very well and was totally a different bowler. That created a problem for us. We have played him better in the past."
"Sarfraz was exceptional against him. I think it's a case of one of the batsmen finding a tough bowler easy while others find it difficult. He was really confident and is presently at his best form. He has played some special innings since Sharjah. He has really become a very good batsman."
Pakistan fought well during the first three days of the SSC Test but suffered a second-innings batting collapse, just like in Galle. Rather than being critical of the batsmen, Misbah suggested the team to move on.
"You only learn from your defeats and its not like we played bad cricket," he said. "We did play good cricket but they were little bit better than us. When you lose 2-0 or 1-0 - it's no different. You try to improve with every game you play and move on. Still there are positives for us."
Misbah said that after losing the Galle Test in the dying minutes, they were confident of making a comeback. "We were positive about the game as we had already gone down in series (before coming to SSC)," he said. "We tried to get them right from the start but lost our way. Herath's spell downed us and his two wickets with the new ball (in the second innings) really hurt us."
Misbah might have brought a much-needed stability to the team but Pakistan's track record in the last two years has had mixed results. They entered the series as the No. 3 Test team and dropped to six after the loss. Misbah said that every team played to win but losses were also part of the game. "Even Sri Lanka lost the home series against South Africa," he said. "It's an ongoing thing. You win, you lose. The beauty is you bounce back hard and try to win the upcoming series."