Pakistan did not go into the Test series against Sri Lanka as favourites. This was specifically because they had not won a Test series in Sri Lanka in nearly a decade. But, it must be said they put up a fantastic performance to pull off a memorable series triumph. Going into the penultimate day of the Test series, it seemed Sri Lanka had done enough to secure the series. But Shan Masood and Younis Khan put up a stand that not only defied the Lankans, but saturated the bowling outfit to such a level that they had all but given up by the end of the fourth day's play.
The partnership between Masood and Younis was symbolic in many ways. It was that perfect case of the future meeting was will soon be the past of Pakistan cricket. This combination of youth and experience worked perfectly for Pakistan throughout the series, and was instrumental in their impressive triumph. This series was exceedingly important for Younis. He had not done much in his much-celebrate 100th Test. His one-day career is all but finished, and had he failed at Pallekele as well, the Pakistan selectors might well have taken the call to look beyond him. But, Younis had stated recently that he still has some goals to achieve. And, he clearly played like a man on a mission at Pallekele.
Although Pakistan's batting faltered more than once in the series, they showed uncharacteristic fighting qualities in Sri Lanka. Sarfraz Ahmed was top notch yet again, bringing the team out of trouble more than once with his aggressive strokeplay. Ahmed has had a massive influence on Pakistan as batsman and keeper. At the top of the order, Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad combined well, featuring in key partnerships. Unassumingly, Azhar has become one of the cornerstones of Pakistan's batting. If anything, Shehzad needs to convert his knocks into bigger scores. A review of Pakistan's performance would be incomplete without the mention of Yasir Shah, who singlehandedly kept Lanka on the backfoot with the ball.
Sri Lanka would be disappointed with the loss, but they should not be disheartened. The fact was that Pakistan had better resources, and utilised the same very well. Lanka are in a rebuilding phase with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan gone. Kumar Sangakkara also pulled out of the third Test. Thus, apart from skipper Angelo Mathews, they do not have much experience in the batting, and it showed. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva looked good, but they lacked consistency. A lot was expected of Lahiru Thirimanne, but he was hugely disappointing, playing some terrible strokes.
In the wake of poor batting efforts, Lanka may have to rework their batting order. Upul Tharanga and Jehan Mubarak got chances to resurrect their Test careers, but didn't convert their starts. Possibly, they could think of having Dinesh Chandimal batting higher in the order. Lanka missed a match-winner in the bowling department as well. Dhammika Prasad bowled with fire, but did not get a lot of support. The spin of Tharindu Kaushal was no match to Yasir, as he was completely taken apart. Significantly, the poor form of Rangana Herath made matters worse for the hosts.
--By A Cricket Analyst