Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan chased down their highest score in Test history with some much-needed help from Younis Khan, who scored 171 not out, and captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who made an unbeaten 59, to beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in Pallekele.
Not only did Pakistan break a record along the way, but they also won the series 2-1 after losing the second Test by seven wickets.
Starting out the day on 230/2, Khan and opener Shan Masood converted their 217-run partnership into a 242-run stand before Masood was stumped by Dinesh Chandimal off the bowling of Tharindu Kaushal.
Masood’s career-best knock of 125 came off 233 balls and included 11 boundaries and a six.
That was to be Sri Lanka’s only taste of success for the rest of the match as Khan and ul-Haq put together an unbeaten 127-run partnership, during which Khan surpassed the 150-run mark and ul-Haq brought up his half-century, to lead Pakistan to victory.
Khan finished on 171 off 271 balls, which included 18 boundaries, while ul-Haq remained undefeated on 59 off 103 deliveries, which included eight boundaries and a six.
Kaushal, Suranga Lakmal and Dhammika Prasad claimed one wicket each.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews was gutted to have lost, and said: “It was disappointing. I thought we were sitting pretty when he had 377. This was a really good game after both sides were even. The Pakistan bowlers were brilliant in the second innings. Pakistan deserved to win and they played better cricket than us. It turned a little bit but the seamers did not have anything in the last couple of days. We don’t have Mahela and Sanga, we will have to take on the challenge and move on. I am trying to contribute both with the bat and ball. It has been a great Test series for both teams. The one-day team will be a fresh team.”
Ul-Haq was thrilled to have won as Pakistan jumped up to number three on the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test team rankings, and said: “It is such a big victory. Younis said that the pitch was not doing much for the bowlers. Shan Masood the way he played took the game away from Sri Lanka. After the Younis-Masood partnership, it was easy for us. The youngsters are doing well for the team. When seamers did not get wickets in the first innings, Yasir bowled tight lines and showed his variations. Then Imran came in on the fourth day and took five wickets. The key factor in the game was to keep calm. We have lost a couple of Tests in Sri Lanka last time when we panicked. We just wanted to bat calmly this time. This series means a lot to me after losing two or three series in Sri Lanka. Sarfraz in the first innings is the main architect of this win. Asad Shafiq was brilliant in the first Test. After playing so well against Zimbabwe at home, we have a lot of confidence in the ODIs. Sri Lanka are tough competitors at home but we can win the ODIs.”
Khan was named Man of the Match, and said: “It is not that I train much, but I am involved in everything. I always want to stand up for the team. I play according to the situation. Yesterday when we were fielding, we knew we could chase 400. Credit to Shan Masood, he was amazing. This is a very good bunch of players. Misbah and I keep them calm, they play well under pressure. Yasir Shah has been impressive throughout the series. Imran bowled really well.”
Pakistan spinner Yasir Shah was named Man of the Series for taking 24 wickets at a brilliant average of 19.33, and said: “I am playing my tenth game, I do not feel much pressure. People say I smile a lot, that is my natural way. I have worked a lot on my action with Mushy bhai, worked on my googly and made my action repeatable. My target was to take 20 wickets. I bowl according to the wicket. In the second innings, I went around the wicket to make full use of the track.”