Sri Lanka's joy at winning their Test series in Pakistan in March evaporated three months later when Pakistan extracted revenge with a remorseless 2-0 victory in the three-Test series played in Sri Lanka. It was not that the Sri Lankans underperformed; they simply came up against a Pakistan team playing at their peak.
The result was not one many would have forecast. For a start, Pakistan had been playing almost non-stop cricket for five months and had every reason to be exhausted. The Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah, a gruelling and ultimately heartbreaking tour of the Caribbean, and then the Asia Cup in Bangladesh had preceded this tour. Sanath Jayasuriya's team, on the other hand, were playing on familiar terrain and appeared confident of repeating their series win in Pakistan. They also had the incentive of the opening Test in Colombo being their country's 100th. But logic went by the board as Pakistan dominated the first two Tests.
The touring team were led admirably by wicket-keeper/batsman Moin Khan. He and Javed Miandad, reinstated as coach during the series between these sides in Pakistan, looked to have formed a vital partnership for their country. They could point to a number of fine individual performances in the first two Tests, but none to compare with those of former captain Wasim Akram, whose all-round skills gave his side a distinct edge. He might have been under considerable pressure after the publication of the Qayyum Report into match-fixing but, as in the West Indies, he put aside the allegations to produce cricket of the highest quality. The irony was that Wasim would have missed the series but for Qayyum; he would have been in England working for Channel 4 TV. He withdrew from their commentary team when the report was severely critical of him. At Colombo, his 96th Test, he became the fourth bowler to reach 400 wickets in Tests, after Sir Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Courtney Walsh, and the first to take 400 in both Tests and one-day internationals. By way of celebration, he helped himself to a rapid hundred at Galle, the last of four in Pakistan's match-winning 600 for eight declared, and was their leading run-scorer in the series, heading the averages with 99.
Although the pace men grabbed the headlines - at Galle, all-rounder Abdur Razzaq became the youngest to take a hat-trick in Tests - Pakistan owed much to the off-spin bowling of Arshad Khan for their series success. So often in the shadow of Saqlain Mushtaq, who was in England playing for Surrey, Arshad now matched the great Muttiah Muralitharan with 12 wickets at almost the same cost. Waqar Younis, with 11, again demonstrated that reports of his demise were an exaggeration.
For the Sri Lankans, the series provided little pleasure once the celebrations to mark their 100th Test passed and the cricket began in earnest. Even their enormous opening partnership of 335 between Marvan Atapattu and Jayasuriya at Kandy, the fifth-highest in all Tests, was ultimately robbed of relevance by the rain. They had to wait for the Singer Triangular Series that followed the Tests to settle the score, and did so to great effect. For Pakistan, however, the one-day tournament was disappointing. After winning their last three one-day tournaments, they now failed to win any of their four games against South Africa or the hosts.
Match reports for
Sri Lanka Board XI v Pakistanis at Colombo (Police), Jun 10-11, 2000