A pregnable fortress
The National Stadium in Karachi suddenly seems a less impregnable fortress
The National Stadium in Karachi suddenly seems a less impregnable fortress. Sri Lanka won a Test in Faisalabad after starts of 9 for 3 and 0 for 1, to continue their unbeaten series run in Pakistan. It seemed like Pakistan's problems needed more than a change of coach, and not even their golden history at Karachi could be leaned on.
Sri Lanka have lost every Test they've played at Karachi, as has nearly every other team, but Pakistan's record of only one loss in fifty years there is unlikely to bother a team firmly on a roll. Barring Marvan Atapattu and Romesh Kaluwitharana, every player scored runs or showed signs of form. Even Muralitharan's absence didn't seem to hurt much anymore. There was a man for every crisis, and chances were clutched with the desperation of a team hungry for victory.
Until Sanath Jayasuriya took charge on the third day of the first Test, the contest was balanced. Thereafter, Pakistan bungled it on the fourth, and fell away on the fifth. After the match, John Dyson commended his side's spirit, comparing it to Australia's, while Inzamam-ul-Haq announced that Moin Khan had been given plenty of chances and was being dropped. To some, it was a knee-jerk reaction. Others believed Kamran Akmal's inclusion was the right move for a side in transition.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are unlikely to change their side for tomorrow, though Pakistan will be forced to probably bring in Riaz Afridi for Mohammad Sami, who was ruled out because of a groin strain. It's a setback that could have repercussions for Pakistan over the next few months, for they tour Australia next. Though Sami did not strike in the second innings, his four-wicket haul in the first played a large part in limiting Sri Lanka to 243.
But Pakistan have more pressing issues to deal with: Jayasuriya, for one. He played with a nonchalance depressing for Pakistan, and, with a large total to defend, the bowlers had their way. The second - and this was pivotal - was that the batsmen lost wickets in clumps after rapid starts, with few inclined to stay at the crease. It was this very thing Bob Woolmer said he would try to stop when he spoke of `skinning the Pakistani cat' as he took over the team. The results showed in one-dayers, but his side was outdone by a more determined team in the last Test, where the attack, led by Shoaib Akhtar, was inspirational and then flat, but the batsmen had no sustained phases of success.
When it came, the win seemed easy. By then, Sri Lanka had not only scored more runs and taken wickets for less, but had deflated Pakistan's spirit. After it, Inzamam spoke of survival and Atapattu spoke of winning abroad. Their words spoke volumes.