By registering a 222-run victory in the final Test of the three-match series, the Pakistanis not only kept their unbeaten record intact at the National Stadium, Karachi but also avoided the first-ever Test whitewash on Home soil. The win also marked the return of Javed Miandad as coach after Intikhab Alam resigned from the post during the second Test at Peshawar. It's amazing how Miandad was to transform the beaten bunch of cricketers into a fighting unit, capable of delivering the wonders when the chips were down. Miandad, clearly the best batsman Pakistan has ever produced, is certainly the best coach around by miles and really deserves to be appointed for a longer term.
After being crushed at the hands of Aussie invincibles, the series against Sri Lanka was an ideal opportunity for Pakistan to get back into its groove. But instead of boosting the morale of senior players, the PCB advisory panel provided a chance to the youth, which resulted in humiliating defeats in three One-day Internationals. Providing youth a chance augurs well for the future but they should be groomed at the right time. Youngsters like Imran Abbas and Faisal Iqbal were thrown in the team to replace the likes of Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq when the experienced duo needed all the support of the cricketing bosses. International caps should not be up for grabs. Let the youngsters do a bit more to earn the honour of representing their country.
Although Pakistan lost the Test rubber, their fourth successive series defeat on Home soil, but their performance was not all that bad. The two matches Sri Lanka won could have gone either way, particularly; the first Test that Pakistan lost by two wickets after fighting valiantly with only two fully fit bowlers. With a little bit of luck and more planning the home side could have won that match and perhaps the series too.
As far as the second Test is concerned, Pakistan didn't get their selection right and hence lost the chance to level the series. Arshad Khan was proffered to fill the place created through Saqlain Mushtaq's injury, who had bowled his heart out in the first Test despite being only half fit. Had the selectors gone for the leg-spin of Mushtaq Ahmed the results could have been different there too. It's really mind-boggling how the selectors are continuing with their shabby treatment towards Mushtaq Ahmed. Regarded as one of the best leg-spinners in the world only a couple of seasons ago, little Mushy is not even considered for a second choice now despite being fully fit.
The series also saw Inzamam-ul-Haq back to his brilliant best after a bad one-day series in Australia. The burly right-hander topped the batting averages with 355 runs at 71.00. With the copy book technique he possesses and a wide range of shots, Inzamam is one of the best batsmen in the world today and certainly the best in Pakistan. He is too good a player to be dropped after just one bad series.
The other positive aspect of the series was the return to form of Waqar Younis. Although he was not a destroyer as he used to be but he provided early breakthroughs in almost all the innings and won the battle against Atapattu and Jayasuriya. The experienced pacer has done enough to win man-of-the-series award and with that silence the critics who were talking about an end to his illustrious career.
Sri Lankans deserve all the credit because they played brilliantly right throughout the series. Their pace bowlers struck at the right time and batsmen kept their cool even in most trying circumstances. However, the real star for them was again Muttiah Muralitharan. The spin king added to his reputation as the best off-spinner in the game today by picking up as many as 26 wickets in the series. Hats off to Murali!
Sri Lanka tour of Pakistan
Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium
Arbab Niaz Stadium