Monday, July 13, 2009

Pakistan's All round show of Cricket

Fawad Alam, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal twisted an unexpected spin on the second day at the P Sara Oval, with Pakistan dominating as entirely as they had been dominated on the day one. Led by outstanding spells from Gul and an outstanding century on first appearance from Fawad, Pakistan healthier from a catastrophic first innings, restricted their shortfall to 150, and, by the conclusion of the day two, had wiped off the outstanding runs and moved to the lead, losing only one wicket in the course of the match.

When the day began, Sri Lanka was so far in front it seemed almost expected that they would set right their record of never having won a home series against Pakistan. However, so meticulously did Pakistan be in charge of all three sessions that Sri Lanka will have scratchy thoughts about chasing a firm fourth-innings target on a tiresome pitch? So far Pakistan had set all the wrong records in this series, but they did the right thing here: Fawad's stubborn yet confident effort made him the 10th Pakistan batsman to achieve a century on debut, but the first to do so in a foreign country. Thanks to that endeavor and the remarkable bowling display, Pakistan can dream about chasing another record: only once have they won a Test after surrendering a larger first-innings deficit - against New Zealand in Wellington in 2003, when they stalked by 170 but ultimately won by seven wickets.

There were question marks being raised about Pakistan's dedication after there surrender in the series so far, but as is their wont, they hit back just when their likelihood had been written off. The pitch stayed as a pretty good one for batting, although the bounce had moderated, but Pakistan relied on dangerous spells of reverse swing, supported by steady spin and an encouraging bit of fielding, to initiate an astounding recovery, and then continued it with an absolutely close controlled and decisive batting effort.

The morning session has been dominated by Gul. He was completely monotonous in Galle, but here he was back, reverting to his original action instead of trying to hide the ball with both hands. He generated late swing, bowled at a rapid tempo, and maintained tremendous control over line and length of the deliveries. He also bowled the ball that says the Pakistan's comeback, slipping in a quick delivery from round the wicket that crashed through Kumar Sangakkara's resistance. Sangakkara had progressed with composure to 87 and looked good for many more, but that delivery was an vigorous affirmation of the fact that Pakistan were back in the game. That's accurately how it turned out, as Sri Lanka lost five wickets after that for just 52 runs.

Gul got plenty of prop up from Ajmal, who bowled steadily through the day and finished with worthy bowling figures of 4 for 87. The pitch didn't help him much, but Ajmal maintained brilliant control, rarely giving the batsmen easy scoring opportunities. He also had some help from umpire Daryl Harper, who adjudged Tillakaratne Dilshan caught behind wicket though ball made no contact with bat, it’s a mistake which helps Pakistan very much.

It was a day when almost everything went in favor for Pakistan, with even the fielding has been better. The day started with a superb direct throw from Mohammad Aamer that found Thilan Samaraweera short of his crease for the run out. And when Gul came back for a second spell before lunch break, Sri Lanka's depression aggravated, as he struck twice in consecutive balls. Nuwan Kulasekara drove hard to slip, while Rangana Herath was caught-and-bowled as he tried to play a drive, thus humanizing Gul's post lunch figures of 3 for 15 from eight overs.

Angelo Mathews presented some fight after being grant a stay of execution in the slips on 4, but that was hardly enough to stop the rampaging Pakistanis. With the shortage controlled to handy scope, their batsmen then set about making further in a row into Sri Lanka's clutch on the game.

Khurram Manzoor and Fawad did that by adding 85 for the first wicket, looking unruffled at most times on a pitch that had lost most of its pace. Kulasekara, the first-innings demolisher, didn't get much dangle, while the short of pace meant both batsmen had adequate time to regulate their strokes.

Fawad's inclination to shuffle had been his downfall in the first innings, and while he sustained to use that practice in the second innings, he was fast enough to work the ball on the leg side every time the bowlers embattled on his pads. The most imposing feature of his batting, though, was his outlook. He was secure in defense, never looked disturbed down by the huge deficit, and worked the ball away extraordinarily against both fast and spin. Nothing confirmed his nature better than the way he tackled the 90s - on 92, he stepped back and hauled Rangana Herath high over midwicket for the maximum; then he stepped back and hit the ball behind point for a couple of runs to get to his first century.

It contained only six fours and a six, but yet came off just 151 balls, representing just how well he worked the ball around the wicket. His fastener run-scoring was the arc between backward point and mid-off, as he drove the ball confidently off both front and back foot, selecting the gaps and ensuring that there were never long defense sessions in the bating.

Younis had a close shave for leg before wicket when he is on 4 - replays showed the ball had strike pad before hitting the bat - but he slowly got into his channel, timing the ball sweetly down the ground and giving the bowlers a tension.

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