Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 1st Test 2023

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Pakistan 461 (Shakeel 208*, Salman 83, Ramesh 5-136, Jayasuriya 3-145) and 133 for 6 (Imam 50*, Jayasuriya 4-56) beat Sri Lanka 312 (Dhananjaya 122, Mathews 64, Abrar 3-68, Afridi 3-86) and 279 (Dhananjaya 82, Madushka 52, Abrar 3-68, Noman 3-75) by four wickets

It took a little over an hour for Pakistan to wrap things up, as they hunted down the remaining 83 runs in very un-Pakistan fashion – without fuss and little drama. Sure they lost three wickets, but from the very first ball – which was pulled for four – that they’d get there in the end was in little to no doubt. The result means Pakistan take a 1-0 lead against Sri Lanka in this two-match series, and get them off to the ideal start in this new World Test Championship (WTC) cycle. It also gives them a first Test win in exactly a year – the last also coming in Galle.
Imam-ul-Haq was unbeaten on 50 with Agha Salman for company when the winning runs – a sumptuous loft over long-off for six – were scored. Prabath Jayasuriya ended with figures of 4 for 56 to increase his ever-growing collection of scalps at Galle, but that will be scant consolation for the hosts.

And while those of a Pakistani persuasion might have had doubts gnawing away in the back of their minds over a potential collapse, or a snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory performance by the visitors this morning, this was a result that might force a rethink.

On the surface, a four-wicket win when hunting down 131 might point towards some jitters, but this was oddly enough a chase that seemed in control despite those losses.

The first delivery of the day in fact provided a microcosm of how both these sides managed their respective briefs throughout this Test, as the sometimes-erratic Ramesh Mendis dragged one short for Babar Azam to put away easily to the boundary behind square leg; Pakistan needed quick runs, Sri Lanka needed to keep things tight, only one side followed the script.

This boundary was followed by another later in the over, with the first five overs of the day eventually being plundered for 30 runs. Both Babar and Imam showed uncharacteristic intent during this period, using their feet to the spinners, while the Pakistan captain even gave the sweep a rare outing.

When he fell, trapped leg before by Jayasuriya, some of those watching on, familiar with Pakistan’s history, might have been forgiven for bracing for a potential scare. After all, back in 2009, Pakistan had folded alarmingly fast when chasing a similarly paltry total at the very same ground. But this is a new Pakistan – or at least they’re trying to be.
They had assured prior to the day’s play that they would play attacking cricket, and so they did, Imam pumping one handsomely over long-off the very next over after Babar’s fall, and Saud Shakeel – the first innings hero – also slashing one behind point.

And as the deficit reduced, their intensity only increased. With a little over 20 runs left, Shakeel took Sri Lanka’s best bowler for a pair of boundaries on either side of the wicket. At this point, Shakeel’s average had risen above 100, but he settled for a little less in the end, nicking one through off Mendis before the innings was done.

Sarfaraz was the last to fall, top-edging a sweep to deep square leg with just four left to get, but Agha rammed home the point, smoking one long and straight first ball to wrap up the game.

As for how long this positive-Pete version of Pakistan carries on remains to be seen, but for the time being, it’s certainly something to be celebrated. Sri Lanka, for their part, have four days to recalibrate on how to combat this new beast and gather themselves for round two in Colombo.

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