Catches win matches

Pakistan ought to have won the first test against Sri Lanka. The match was drawn despite the fact that Sri Lanka were bowled out for 197 in the first innings and it never rained. Sri Lanka fought very well in the second innings, Kumar Sangakkara scored a brilliant double ton, but Pakistan did not allow themselves enough time to force a result. Perhaps they had watched the Cardiff test and assumed that Sri Lanka would roll over again. Whatever the reason, Pakistan didn’t make much of an effort to kick on in their first innings. The only batsman who looked like he was batting for a declaration was Misbah-ul-Haq who scored a quick 46 before being unfairly given out. That dismissal made it 436-4, but the new batsman, Asad Shafiq proceeded to crawl to 26 off of 94 deliveries! To cap his disaster of an innings he ran out his partner, the double centurion Taufeeq Umar. It was a dreadful innings, especially in the circumstance. When Umar Gul was out for a duck it brought the declaration on 511-6. Pakistan had scored at less than three an over. Although Shafiq was the worst culprit, both Azhar Ali and Younis Khan had strike rates of only 35.

This left Pakistan just over two days to bowl out Sri Lanka with a lead of 314. They still ought to have done this, although the conditions favoured the batsman. They got one wicket before close on the third day; a fortunate one as Tony Hill unfairly gave Paranavitana out LBW first ball. They took only four wickets on day four however and dropped five catches. They put down another on the last day, though by that time Sangakkara and Prasanna Jayawardene had already steered Sri Lanka to safety. Sangakkara’s 211 will have been particularly galling; he was reprieved multiple times.

I’ll be interested to see how Pakistan go from here. The next test is on Wednesday in Dubai and the conditions are unlikely to improve. They gambled a bit by playing Junaid Khan in this test ahead of Wahab Riaz, but he very much justified his place and was arguably Pakistan’s best bowler in the match. (Umar Gul is the other possibility.) I doubt Pakistan will make any changes, they played well overall, but they need to improve their fielding.

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