Forty years of Pakistan – Sri Lanka Test cricket

Rex Clementine in Galle

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Sri Lanka vs Pakistan Test Cricket

Didn’t we all grow up admiring the amazing cricketing talents of Pakistan. Wasim Akram is obviously the hero of our generation, but the generation before us were in awe of champion players like Zaheer Abbas and Imran Khan. In recent years of course there have been some prodigious talents such as Younis Khan, Babar Azam and Shaheen Shah Afridi.

Pakistan also has been a dear friend of Sri Lanka and throughout 1970s fought our case for the full membership of the ICC. Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Pakistan’s first Test captain and later Chairman of PCB was a key figure who supported Sri Lanka’s bid for Test status and initiated the Ali Bhutto Trophy between the under-19 teams of the two countries.   

Mr. Kardar was also responsible in providing scholarships for Sri Lankan coaches and curators in a bid to raise our cricketing standards. He lived to see Sri Lanka’s greatest moment in the game that too in his hometown in Lahore and passed away a month after the World Cup glory.   

Pakistan also was the first country to host Sri Lanka in a Test series. The team made the tour a mere two weeks after their inaugural Test match. So far, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have engaged in 57 Test matches, most Sri Lanka have played against a single opponent, with India’s 46 Tests coming as the second most against one country.   

Sri Lanka’s series win against Pakistan in 1995 was the first time they won more than one Test match overseas. It was a special win as the team recorded a come from behind victory having lost the opening Test match.   

Of those 57 Tests, Pakistan have won 21 with Sri Lanka emerging victorious in 17 and 19 games have ended in draws. 

Sri Lanka’s series win in 2017 in Pakistan’s adopted home of UAE was special as they had remained unbeaten in the gulf region since they were forced to abandon home games due to security reasons. That series also marked Sri Lanka’s first ever day-night Test match.   

The numbers of former captain Kumar Sangakkara against Pakistan are stunning. He is the leading run scorer between the teams in Tests having amassed 2911 runs at an average of 75 that includes ten hundreds. Younis Khan is a distant second having hit 2286 runs in 29 Tests at 51.   

Younis Khan is the only triple centurion in Pakistan – Sri Lanka Tests having hit his career best 313 in Karachi on a flat deck. That was a wicket that provided rarely any assistance to the bowlers forcing captain Mahela Jayawardene to say that pitches like Karachi made fast bowlers ‘endangered species’.   

The next highest individual score between these countries is Sanath Jayasuriya’s 253, a remarkable effort given the circumstances.   

Jayasuriya hadn’t been picked in the original squad, partly due to form and partly due to niggles. He thew caution to the wind making the bowlers look hapless.   

Sri Lanka had conceded a first innings lead in Faisalabad and were rocked early as captain Marvan Atapattu departed without scoring in the second innings. When the eighth wicket fell, Sri Lanka were 337. Jayasuriya was joined by Dilhara Fernando and they were involved in a 101-run partnership for which Fernando’s contribution was one. When Jayasuriya is in such mood, usually, Sri Lanka win big and they did this time by 201 runs.   

Usually, Muttiah Muralitharan dominates the charts for bowlers in Test cricket but against Pakistan it is Rangana Herath. The story that stat tells you is that left-arm spin indeed was Pakistan’s Achilles’ heel.   

Herath took 106 wickets against Pakistan in 21 Tests while Murali claimed 80 in 16 games.   

Wasim Akram finished with 63 wickets in 19 Tests and averaged a miserly 21 and that included two hat-tricks in back-to-back games during the Asian Test Championship. Those were magical feats indeed and Wasim could turn a game on its head not just with the ball but with the bat as well. He smashed a whirlwind hundred in just 89 balls with eight fours and six sixes to hand Sri Lanka an innings and 163 run loss.  

Talking of magical feats, another guy who was capable of fairytale stuff was Aravinda de Silva   

On his 20th birthday, he made it count with his maiden Test hundred and in fact reached three figures in style by hooking of all people Imran Khan for a six.   

The series that gets underway shortly promises a lot of excitement as well between two sides that are evenly matched. Their contest last year was drawn 1-1. Although Pakistan have undergone a few changes since they were here last time, nothing much has changed for Sri Lanka except for the role of wicketkeeper and the arrival of a new opening batsman.