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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Sri Lanka have Chandimal and Herath to thank after series win over Pakistan

Conversely, Pakistan get team selection wrong and find going tough in absence of Misbah and Younis

Sri Lanka raised their game after a difficult few months on the cricket field. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Sri Lanka raised their game after a difficult few months on the cricket field. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Two days short of precisely 10 years since they last lost a “home” Test series, Pakistan’s proud record went tumbling against a revived Sri Lanka in Dubai.

The last time they experienced this feeling, home still meant home – as in, Pakistan. Misbah-ul-Haq was a not-universally-fancied middle-order batsman, serving under the captaincy of Shoaib Malik. Sami Aslam and Babar Azam were 11 and 12 years old respectively.

Beating Pakistan in the UAE had become cricket’s final frontier – the term given by former Australia captain Steve Waugh to the elusive task of trying to win in India at the turn of the century.

No team had done so in a full Test series before. Until this Sri Lanka side, one totally stripped bare of anything resembling household names, and one that arrived in the emirates last month with their confidence entirely shot.

Sri Lankan cricket had been in the doldrums for some while, since star players of the past, who were also their foremost leadership figures, gave way to the ageing process.

The effects of the vacuum left by the retirements of players like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan should be a cautionary tale for Pakistan.

They themselves were playing the first series since the retirements of Misbah and Younis Khan. It was always going to be tough. But being whitewashed on territory that was previously such a fortress for them? Ouch.

To his credit, Mickey Arthur, the coach, acknowledged that he had made mistakes when it came to strategy in this series.

Maybe the bigger worry is not that he misread the pitches, but that it was his decision to go with three seamers and the one – subsequently overworked – spinner.

Formerly, what Misbah wanted, Misbah got. Surely Sarfraz Ahmed, Misbah’s successor, must have a few clues about how UAE wickets play. He is no novice over here.

“Test captaincy is a little difficult and I've learnt a lot,” Sarfraz said. “The boys are new as well and they will learn. We'll do better in the future.”

The way victory was finally sealed for Sri Lanka, clinching a 68-run win at the Dubai International Stadium, was fitting.

They are supposed to be a side denuded of leaders, one whose captaincy armband has been passed around seven times in the past two years, across the formats.

And yet, when the win came, it was Dinesh Chandimal, the captain who took the catch of Wahab Riaz at deep extra cover, off the bowling of the most experienced player in the side, Rangana Herath.

Chandimal had started this victory march, with an indefatigable first-innings century in a furnace in Abu Dhabi last week. He ended the series with 224 runs at 74.66.

Herath’s reaction was typical of a player who has been there, done that, got the singlet. He hitched up his trousers and took his cap from the umpire.

He might have walked straight off the field, had he not been summarily engulfed by euphoric teammates. He had taken 16 wickets in the series.

As an example of how to lead, Chandimal and Herath had showed how it should be done.

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Read more

Reactions: Chandimal lauds Perera for career comeback

Day 1 report: Karunarante century sets up Sri Lanka in Dubai

Day 2 report: Pakistan's uphill task to keep UAE record in tact

Day 3 report: Wahab regains his groove in the second innings

Day 4 report: Shafiq's return to form gives Pakistan hope

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“The guys played some really outstanding cricket,” Chandimal said. “Everyone had the hunger to win, even in the management. I’m really honoured and privileged to win this series, and especially to do it as a captain.

“The main thing is our attitude. That has made a lot of difference. Everyone put their heart and soul into practices, even the management.

“The selectors gave really good confidence to me and my team. That makes a really big difference. We are looking forward to doing well in the up and coming series as well.”

Dimuth Karunaratne, Sri Lanka’s opener, was named player of the series for his 306 runs.

“I just wanted to play the anchor role for my side,” Karunaratne said. “I wanted to make big scores in the first innings in this series. After the India series, I think we did really well in the first Test and these ten days.”

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Day 5, Dubai Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Given the problems Sri Lanka have had in recent times, it was apt the winning catch was taken by Dinesh Chandimal. He is one of seven different captains Sri Lanka have had in just the past two years. He leads in understated fashion, but by example. His century in the first innings of this series set the shock win in motion.

Stat of the day This was the ninth Test Pakistan have lost in their past 11 matches, a run that started when they lost the final match of their three-Test series against West Indies in Sharjah last year. They have not drawn a match in almost two years and 19 matches, since they were held by England at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi in 2015.

The verdict Mickey Arthur basically acknowledged he had erred by basing Pakistan’s gameplan around three seam bowlers and asking for pitches with plenty of grass in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Why would Pakistan want to change the method that has treated them so well on these grounds in the past 10 years? It is unlikely Misbah-ul-Haq would have made the same mistake.