Younis Khan smashed an unbeaten 171 to steer Pakistan to a famous seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka on the last day of the final Test of the three-match series in Pallekele on Tuesday (July 7).
Set a massive 377 for victory, Pakistan mounted their highest chase in Test history with consummate ease, surging home in the post lunch session on the back of Younis’s 30th Test hundred and his 242-run third-wicket stand with Shan Masood.
Misbah-ul-Haq, the skipper, brought up victory with a towering six off Jehan Mubarak to finish unbeaten on 59 as Pakistan completed their first series win in Sri Lanka in nine years.
Pakistan were well-placed at lunch with 321 for 3 on the board, just 56 away from victory. A cautious first session had yielded 91 runs for the loss of Masood’s wicket in 29 overs. After the break though, with victory in sight, Pakistan cantered to victory with Younis and Misbah clattering 61 runs in just 11.1 overs.
The two most experienced players in the line-up had come together with on Pakistan 255 for 3, a sound platform in place for a historic win. They used their knowhow and nous to great effect, playing with calm heads to head off even a whisper of any spectacular collapse and seal the win in clinical style.
Younis ended the match with 8814 Test runs, with Javed Miandad’s mark of 8832 to become Pakistan’s all-time leading Test run-getter within sight. The series win also saw Pakistan leapfrog New Zealand and India third in the ICC Test rankings with 101 points, two ahead of New Zealand. Sri Lanka remained in seventh place with 92 points.
The day began with Younis and Masood resuming their record-breaking stand for the third wicket, continuing to hold off Sri Lanka’s bowlers at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. Pakistan had resumed on 230 for 2, needing a further 147 runs for victory, while Sri Lanka knew that with there being no threat of rain, they needed eight wickets to force victory.
With enough time for Pakistan to get the runs and not losing wickets the key, Masood and Younis began cautiously. Both were happy to play out dot balls and pick off runs slowly, and looked set to build their partnership – already the highest for the third wicket for Pakistan in Sri Lanka – further.
Tharindu Kaushal provided Sri Lanka with the much-needed breakthrough, ending Masood’s 233-ball vigil less than an hour into the final day’s play. Masood had survived a loud caught behind appeal off Angelo Mathews four overs earlier and played cautiously for the most part. However, with Kaushal’s introduction into the attack, he looked to take a more positive approach, stepping down the track off the bowler’s fourth ball. But the dip and turn beat the batsman, for Dinesh Chandimal to complete the stumping.
Kaushal, who had been taken for 92 runs in 20 overs on Monday, had some reward at last, but the 242-run stand for the third wicket had put Pakistan on very sound footing, even though the duo had added only 25 runs in 10.4 overs in the morning.
Younis and Misbah then came together, eating into the target with singles and twos, and smacking the occasional boundary when loose deliveries were served up. Sri Lanka took the new ball as soon as it was available, and Pakistan had a slice of luck when Younis survived an extremely close call for lbw against Dhammika Prasad off the first ball of the 87th over.
The ball had pitched outside offstump and come back in to hit Younis just above the knee-roll and the Sri Lankans went up spontaneously. With their reviews topped up since the 80th over, Mathews had little hesitation in opting for one after the not out decision on the field. Although the ball was shown to be hitting the top of middle and off, Younis, then on 128, survived on umpire’s call.
After that, the two continued in chanceless fashion for the rest of the session. When they came back out, it was with even more renewed purpose and focus, and any inner demons that might have been there given Pakistan’s history of batting collapses were swatted away with the same disdain shown to the bowlers.