Herath spins Sri Lanka to thrilling victory against Pakistan in 1st Test
ABU DHABI – Pakistan lost a thrilling first Test against Sri Lanka on the fifth and final day, losing by 21 runs after being set a target of 136 on Monday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Rangana Herath, who took 6 for 43, was the architect of victory with Dilruwan Perara (3 for 46) assisting him. Pakistan was bowled out for 114 in 47.4 overs to give Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Herath, as he has done in the past, tore through the Pakistan batting, not only going to 400 wickets in Test cricket but also taking his tally to 101 wickets in 20 Tests against Pakistan.
It was another day of sensation-packed action as Pakistan initially sniffed victory, but on a fifth day pitch with three spinners in the opposition, it was always going to be tricky.
By defending this small target, Sri Lanka improved on its previous lowest target defended. Incidentally, that was also against Pakistan when it defended 168 in Galle in 2009. It was the lowest target Pakistan had failed to chase down in Tests. The previous lowest was 146 against South Africa in Faisalabad in 1997.
This win was engineered by Herath. The veteran left-arm spinner finished with 11 for 136 in the match — and it was he who ended the contest by trapping Mohammad Abbas, the last man, leg before for nought to signal victory for Sri Lanka.
It seemed like Herath was destined to get to his milestone 400th wicket, because an over earlier, Dilruwan had got Yasir Shah caught, but it turned out to be a no-ball, giving Pakistan a temporary reprieve, only for Herath to deservedly finish the match.
Herath became the 14th bowler in Test cricket and fifth spinner — behind Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh — to reach the milestone. He was the first left-arm spinner to 400 wickets though.
Earlier, it was Niroshan Dickwella who fought hard to give Sri Lanka some hope of making a match out of the Test. His invaluable 40 not out, and the 37 he helped add for the last three wickets, helped Sri Lanka get to a total from which it could put up a fight.
Pakistan needed early wickets on the fifth day and it was Abbas who responded well, getting the ball to reverse swing from the start. He trapped Kusal Mendis in front for 18. Mendis was undecided about taking a review, but finally opted for one. The replays upheld the decision on umpire’s call.
Abbas then bounced nightwatchman Suranga Lakmal out for 13 as Pakistan started to sniff victory. However, with Abbas’s spell over and Mohammad Amir coming on, Sri Lanka prolonged its fight. Amir hadn’t taken a wicket in the first innings, but could have had one this time around only for Dilruwan to be dropped – the 15th catch that has gone down off the left-arm pacer’s bowling since his comeback to Test cricket.
It didn’t cost Pakistan much as Yasir first had Dilruwan and then dismissed Herath off successive deliveries. Dickwella then took the onus on himself, reverse sweeping a boundary and only allowing Lakshan Sandakan to play the last ball in four overs. They added 34 for the ninth wicket but more significantly, defied the bowling for 10.1 overs. In the end it was a rash cut shot off Yasir that ended Sandakan’s resistance. From the other end, Hasan Ali removed Nuwan Pradeep to bowl out Sri Lanka for 138.
Pakistan might have thought it would be enough, but Herath had other plans.
The second Test starts in Dubai from Friday, and will be Sri Lanka’s first day-night Test match.