Just a month and a half ago, Sri Lanka were routed 3-0 in a three-Test series by India on home turf, but Dinesh Chandimal’s side learnt their lessons and got their rewards right away: A series whitewash of Pakistan in their hitherto unconquered home in the United Arab Emirates.
Sri Lanka overcame a solid, back-to-the-wall sixth-wicket partnership of 173 between Asad Shafiq (112) and Sarfraz Ahmed (68) to pull off a 68-run win in the second Test on Tuesday (October 10). That gave them a 2-0 series win, after they won the first Test in Abu Dhabi by 21 runs.
Pakistan were bowled out for 262 and 248 to lose their first series in the UAE since being forced to play at neutral venues since 2009. They had won five of the last nine exchanges and drawn four. This was also their first Test series defeat at home since losing 1-0 to South Africa in 2007, when they used to host international matches at home in Pakistan.
The defeat also forced Pakistan to drop to No. 7 in the ICC Test rankings, seven years since they were ranked as low as this and just over a year after they had climbed to No. 1.
“It was a tough series against India, we lost 3-0 so it was a tough time for everyone. But we learnt a lot of things from that series as a team and as individuals,” said Chandimal, who had a word of praise for the selectors for keeping their faith in the players.
“The main thing is our attitude and it makes lot of difference. So we started practices 18th of last month so everyone put their heart and soul in the practices for when they come to the matches.”
Chandimal praised Dilruwan Perera, the offspinner whose 5 for 98 derailed Pakistan in their second innings, for lifting his game after a lacklustre series against India.
“We did not expect dew will come, but last night it was there. So it was tough for the spinners. We had more than 120 runs (to defend on the last day) so we knew, especially in this session, the ball will grip as we have two experienced spinners in Rangana (Herath) and Dilruwan. So I knew they will do their job in this session and I am really happy with the way we played.
“He (Perera) did not take any wickets (two in three Tests against India) so before we came here, we spoke to him – myself and coach and the management – so we gave him really good confidence and we trusted him and backed him as the No. 7 allrounder.”
Chandimal, whose team moved to No. 6 in the ICC Test rankings, was especially satisfied with the hunger his players showed.
“I am really happy as a captain, especially guys played really some outstanding cricket and everyone’s hunger to win is the main thing,” he said. “Even in the management also there was a hunger to win so that is the attitude we had before this series and we worked to that and finally we got the result.
“I am really privileged to win this series and doing it as a captain. Actually I am just looking from the players’ commitment, attitude and discipline, and that is what I am looking as a captain.”
The two teams now play a five-match One-Day International series, with the first game in Dubai on Friday. They also play three Twenty20 Internationals after that, with the second game tentatively scheduled for Lahore.