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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Shinwari 'finished match in first five overs' as Pakistan close in on record run of victories

'Hosts' have won nine ODIs on the trot after sending Sri Lanka to their third series whitewash of 2017

Pakistan are closing in on their own record run in ODIs. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Pakistan are closing in on their own record run in ODIs. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

A win by nine wickets. A 5-0 cleansweep in the series. Nearly 54 overs of the scheduled 100 in the match not required. All over by 5.35pm, before most people had even made it out of work.

For Pakistan, their limited-overs upsurge continues apace. The Champions Trophy winners are nine wins from nine, closing in on their country’s record streak of 12.

For Sri Lanka, these are new levels of ignominy. Twelve losses on the run. A third 5-0 series whitewash in 2017, having won only four of 26 matches this year.

It was abysmal, but at least they saved on the electricity bill by getting beat before the Sharjah Cricket Stadium floodlights had had the chance to warm up.

This was Sri Lanka’s 13th lowest total ever in ODIs, and the latest in their litany of Sharjah shame. Of their 13 lowest scores in the format, five have been made at the UAE’s oldest venue.

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Given the run they have been on, this was the worst place the final stage of this series could have been played out for Sri Lanka. Nic Pothas, their coach, and his staff had been searching in vain for answers.

“It is not rocket science,” Pothas said on the eve of the match, reasoning that the batsmen needed to keep the game simple and play positively.

All well in theory, of course. Judged on what happened in practice, though, the Sri Lankan coaching staff must have set their batsmen some quantum physics equations before they each went out to bat. They were as clueless as they had been at any point during this listless series.

Usman Khan Shinwari dismissed five of them, within the space of 21 balls in a remarkable spell with the new ball.

“There is lots of happiness when you give an opportunity to someone and they perform,” Sarfraz Ahmed, the captain, said of Shinwari. “Usman finished the match in the first five overs.”

The left-arm seamer was only playing his second international match, so the Sri Lankan players have not exactly had much to go on in terms of prior knowledge of what he does with the ball.

But the ball hardly arcs around corners on October afternoons in Sharjah. The pitch had little grass. Quite why Sri Lanka’s batsmen were so blinded by Shinwari it was difficult to deduce.

All he appeared to be doing was angling it across the right-handers, and in to the left-handers.

Left-handers Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella were beaten on their inside edge. Right-handed Dinesh Chandimal was caught off his outside edge. The errors, from players who might be regarded among Sri Lanka’s mist senior batsmen, seemed entirely elementary.

“We are not playing to our capabilities, and it is very disappointing the way we are playing,” Tharanga said.

“In this series, we have failed to pass 200 four times. We didn’t handle the pressure, and Usman bowled really well in that first spell. We had no answers.

“We have had three series whitewashes this year, and I feel we are making the same mistakes again. I know our players can do better than this."

They were five down within 6.3 overs, and all out within 26.2 overs. It was a complete mismatch.

Usman Shinwari's first spell proved devastating for Sri Lanka as he ended up with five wickets for the match. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
Usman Shinwari's first spell proved devastating for Sri Lanka as he ended up with five wickets for the match. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

Pakistan even managed to get their eye in before the Twenty20 format starts in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. They just failed, by two balls, to complete their chase within their first 20 overs. Still, they did have the best part of 30 left over.

Imam-ul-Haq hitting the winning runs, and was left unbeaten on 45, meaning he finished his debut series with an average of 73.50.