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Thursday Jul 28 2022
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Pak vs SL: It wasn't just a defeat but a lesson to learn

Pakistans Imam-ul-Haq (L) plays a shot as Sri Lankas wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella watches during the fourth day of the second cricket Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 27, 2022. — AFP
Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq (L) plays a shot as Sri Lanka's wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella watches during the fourth day of the second cricket Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 27, 2022. — AFP

The wounded Pakistan team entered into two-match Test series against Sri Lanka in their backyard with the hope to undo the mess they created back in March this year after they lost a home Test series 1-0 against the mighty Australians.

They had a chance to turn the tables, but unfortunately, they failed to do so.

On the last day of the last Test of the two-match series against Sri Lanka, in-form Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq went out to bat but Sri Lankan spinners proved why they are lethal at home.

Prabath Jayasuriya did what former Pakistani spinners used to do in the golden era of Pakistan Test cricket. Those spinning red deliveries of the great late Abdul Qadir, magicians Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq (current head coach), and unplayable Iqbal Qasim are still in the fond cricket memories.

Senior sports journalist Abdul Majid Bhatti highlighted how Qadir, Mushtaq, Saqlain and even Iqbal were different from today's spinners.

"We have a legacy of spin bowling. Be it Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed or Iqbal Qasim," he highlighted. "They used to bowl out teams single-handedly as their class was different, to be honest," the journalist, who is affiliated with Geo News and Jang, recalled.

"Today, we have Yasir Shah. And while there is no doubt that his performances are good but he is not as effective as our former spinners used to be. Then, Nawaz and Nauman are also doing good but we have to look further and find out spinners in our players' pool," he said while expressing his concerns.

At one stage of Pakistan's Test cricket, it looked like Yasir will go a long way and match the charisma of some of the great leggies in the world, such as Shane Warne.

But, injuries scarred his career and shattered Pakistan's hopes of getting match-winning spinners in a long run. Nauman, however, made his debut at an old age but proved that age is just a number when he took his maiden five-fer on his Test debut against South Africa in Karachi.

Followed by back-to-back five-fers, Nauman cemented his permanent position in the team but his recent exclusion from the squad might have disturbed the left-arm spinner.

Batting collapse

On the last day of the series, Pakistani batters went to the field to do what they did against Australia in Karachi, drawing the second Test while chasing 210 runs in the last sessions. Some might have believed before the second Test that history could be repeated and Pakistan could save this match. But this time, the target was 508 runs.

In the name of 'soft dismissals', Pakistani batters fell prey to Sri Lankan spinners within no time.

"If you see, 1-1 result is not too bad, considering how Sri Lanka treats even big teams in their home," said Bhatti.

"But they could have won the series, not by 2-0 but 1-0, had they made good choices. Firstly, they dropped Fawad Alam to adjust Agha Salman then benched the most experienced Azhar Ali in the second Test. I am not against Agha Salman, his performance or his talent. But you shatter the confidence [of players] by dropping them after a couple of series. You can't build combinations in this way," reiterated Bhatti while suggesting the inclusion of opener Shan Masood in the middle order and Saud Shakeel in his position.

Amid all batting collapse, one thing remained constant: Babar's half-century. The right-handed batter scored his 23rd Test fifty, just after rising to the third position in ICC Test ranking the other day.

Abdullah Shafique, on the other hand, failed to continue his match-winning performance, leaving cricket pundits to think again about his comparisons with the greats of the game.

ICC Test Championship scenario

With the latest defeat, Pakistan dropped down to the fifth position in the ICC Test Championship rankings. It looks like the Pakistani fans will have to wait for more years to see their team play ICC Test championship final.

Pakistan is in a tough situation followed by a lot of T20 cricket until they play a home Test series against England and New Zealand in November-December-January.