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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Lahore return cause for celebration but a series to forget for Tharanga: Highs and lows from Pakistan v Sri Lanka

After two Test matches, five ODIs and three T20s, the Pakistan-Sri Lanka series has come to an end. Paul Radley looks at the winners and losers.

Pakistan players celebrate after winning the third and final T20 against Sri Lanka at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
Pakistan players celebrate after winning the third and final T20 against Sri Lanka at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Aamir Qureshi / AFP

The winners and losers from the Pakistan versus Sri Lanka series were abundantly clear. The home team won a second successive series clean sweep, while the tourists remain mired in woe. But who and what shone the brightest?

Three up

Lahore

Pakistan’s players looked happy enough when they clinched the respective limited-overs series in Abu Dhabi.

The celebrations were nothing, though, compared to the joyous frenzy that followed the final win – achieved at a canter, in a match that counted for little – in Lahore.

The UAE has been a productive home away from home for Pakistan in the past eight years. But clearly, the players’ hearts are elsewhere. Rightly so.

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Shadab Khan

Shadab Khan, left, after hitting the match-winning six. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Shadab Khan, left, after hitting the match-winning six. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

The harshest thing about it was he let Sri Lanka think they were in with a chance! The limited-overs phase of the series was tortuous for the away side.

When their young bucks finally agitated their way into a position to force a win in the second T20 in Abu Dhabi, Shadab snatched it away with the “million dollar shot”.

A straight six with the game on the line? That is just showing off, by one of international cricket’s most luminous young talents.

Sarfraz Ahmed

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed. Rahat Dar / EPA
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed. Rahat Dar / EPA

Since the Champions Trophy was sealed against all odds in the summer, Sarfraz has made 38 runs in 11 limited-overs internationals for Pakistan.

And yet his stock has continued to soar. It says much about how well the side have functioned on his watch that he has not been required to bat in five of those 11 games.

He has a global trophy. Then three straight series wins, two by whitewash. Lauded as a fine ambassador for the sport for reporting an alleged corrupt approach.

Even Misbah-ul-Haq would have been envious of his approval ratings.

Three down

Upul Tharanga

Sri Lanka limited overs captain Upul Tharanga. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Sri Lanka limited overs captain Upul Tharanga. Francois Nel / Getty Images

Sri Lanka's 50-over captain was not even there for the 20-over series, as one of a group of senior players overlooked for selection due to an unwillingness to tour Pakistan. Even in absentia, his struggles continued.

The way the youthful replacement cricketers acquitted themselves in the three matches was a credit to Thisara Perera, who was handed the captaincy basically as the last senior player standing.

Such a spirit of resistance had been miserably lacking in the one-day international series, when Tharanga was at the helm.

Mohammed Amir

Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir. KM Chaudary / AP Photo
Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir. KM Chaudary / AP Photo

The left-arm quick recovered lost ground by taking four wickets in the final match, which was, surprisingly, the first international he has played in Pakistan.

However, his form until then had not been good. Just one wicket in three innings in the Test matches, followed by a shin injury.

Added to that, newcomers like Usman Khan Shinwari caused a stir in his injury-enforced absence. Amir is no longer a guaranteed starter.

Dilshan Munaweera

Sri Lanka batsman Dilshan Munaweera. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Sri Lanka batsman Dilshan Munaweera. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

Munaweera is afforded the type of privileges all schoolboy cricketers hope for – namely, the chance to open both the batting and the bowling.

He struggled to capitalise on his opportunities, though. In the three matches against Pakistan, he managed just 20 runs and one wicket.

The final indignity arrived in Lahore, when a fine, fast in-swinger from Mohammed Amir dismissed him for a duck.

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