Mohammad Amir aborted his bowling innings after hurling down three overs in Dubai on Saturday. Wahab Riaz took a little over seven and a half minutes to bowl the 111th over of the Sri Lankan innings after pulling out of his run up five times. Later on in the second session, Riaz was warned for running onto the danger area.
The listless efforts of two premier left-arm pacers summed up Pakistan’s fortunes not only in the Dubai Test but the two-match series.
A combination of fitness issues, low bowling resources and a charged-up Sri Lankan team have brought Pakistan to the brink of their first Test series defeat in UAE ever since they moved base to the country after the terrorist strike on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.
Left-arm pacer Amir walked off the field right before stumps on Friday after what was revealed to be discomfort in his shin. But the team management didn’t opt for a scan. They kept him under observation overnight and paid a price for their decision on the second day when Amir walked off the field in the first session.
He underwent an MRI scan but we will never know whether those three extra overs made things worse for him.
Wahab has looked considerably less incisive than Hasan Ali, who got injured after the first Test in Abu Dhabi, and his ridiculously long 19th over was about the only highlight for him in Dubai apart from Dimuth Karunaratne’s dismissal’.
With no other frontline spinner in the side, leg-spinner Yasir Shah has been forced to the bulk of the bowling. His tally so far in the series is 84 overs in Abu Dhabi and 55.5 already in Dubai.
The moment Sri Lanka went after him, starting from Sadeera Samarawickrama on the opening day, Pakistan simply had nothing to fall back upon.
Pakistan management has been regularly asked about the logic behind fielding just one spinner and then relying on the part-time spin of Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq. But no satisfactory answer has been provided.
All these individual pieces have combined to form a nightmare for Pakistan where the fast bowlers look far from effective, one spinner bowls 50 overs or more and part-timers bowl far too many overs.
And just as things have started to fall apart for Pakistan, Sri Lanka have picked their game up. This is the same Sri Lankan side that lost 9-0 to India across formats but Dinesh Chandimal, in his first Test series as full-time captain, has whipped the team into shape.
According to reports, discipline has been top priority for the islanders and one member of the current side has already been warned of possible suspension if he breaks team rules.
All that effort seems to be paying off. The tourists have put themselves in a great position to pull off an unprecedented series win. And if they do manage that, the perfect storm created in Pakistan’s dressing room would have played a major role in it.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has extended the contract of head coach Mickey Arthur and his support staff until the end of the ICC World Cup 2019 to be held in England.
“Contracts of the head coach and other support staff have been extended till the World Cup. The only change that can be made in the management is that of the manager,” an official told PTI before leaving for Sri Lanka.
“The PCB will review whether to retain former Test batsman Talat Ali as manager or make a new appointment after the ongoing series against Sri Lanka,” the official added.
PCB has extended Mickey Arthur and the rest of the support staff’s contracts until the 2019 World Cup #Cricket
— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) October 6, 2017
The 49-year-old Arthur took over the reins of the Pakistan team on a two-year contract in May 2016 before the start of the side’s England tour.
The South African’s contract was meant to be reviewed on a two-year basis however Pakistan’s unexpected victory at the ICC Champions Trophy in England this summer has led the PCB to review the contract much earlier than anticipated.
“It makes no sense to make changes now as the next important assignment is the World Cup,” the PCB official said.
Meanwhile PCB has investigated Umar Akmal’s allegations of verbal abuse against the South African and concluded that the head coach was not guilty of the charges.
“Arthur told Umar that only contracted players were being trained at the NCA when Umar raised the issue of Salman Butt (having nets at the NCA). The head coach told him to focus on his own fitness and form. Arthur didn’t say anything out of ordinary,” the official said.
Former Zimbabwe stalwart Grant Flowers is employed as the batting coach with Australian Steve Rixon handling the fielding coach duties.
Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood is the bowling coach in Arthur’s set up while South African Grant Luden and Australian Shane Hayes are employed as the fitness coach and team physiotherapist respectively.
Pakistan needed to do all the running around in the second Test in Dubai having lost the first Test in Abu Dhabi in stunning circumstances. But it was Sri Lanka who played with authority to reach 254-3, thanks mainly to another splendid innings from left-handed opener Dimuth Karunaratne (133 not out).
While the first Test went off script towards the end as Pakistan failed to chase down 136 on a decent wicket, the opening day of the day-night match in Dubai went along expected lines on a flat pitch even though Sri Lanka tried their best on a couple of occasions to undo all of their hard work.
The tourists got off to a solid start as Kaushal Silva (27) added 63 for the first wicket with Karunaratne, before Silva went for an ugly cross-batted shot and perished.
Pakistan workhorse Yasir Shah (2-90) bowled a half-tracker and Silva tried to pull it on the on-side, only to nick the ball behind.
His dismissal brought debutant Sadeera Samarawickrama (38 off 35 balls) to the crease. And it was the debutant who put Sri Lanka firmly in control.
The right-handed Samarawickrama is already being talked about as the next Mahela Jayawardene and it wasn’t too difficult to see why. Two shots in particular against Shah stood out for their defiance. One a lofted drive over cover for a boundary in the 33rd over and then a hit over the long-off fence in the next over off the same bowler.
The 22-year-old looked set to take the match away from Pakistan on his own but his busy style brought about his downfall as an attempted push on the back foot off Mohammad Amir resulted in a leading edge that lobbed straight back to the bowler.
The second, post tea, session became even better for Pakistan when Kusal Mendis decided to whack Shah over the infield but only managed a sharp edge to first slip.
At 136-3, the match was in the balance but Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal (49 not out) dropped anchor and allowed Karunaratne to get on with the job without any more drama.
The left-handed Karunaratne has been splendid in the longest format of late, churning out scores of 97 and 141 against India a couple of months back and hitting 93 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi.
His control over his game was there for all to see when he pulled Amir in front of square and then late cut the left-arm quick for another boundary off the next ball in the 65th over to bring up his seventh Test century.
While the visitors deserve all of the credit for making the most of a flat wicket in Dubai, the lack of bite in Pakistan’s bowling couldn’t be ignored.
The hosts went in with just one main spinner in Shah and had to rely on the non-regular spin of Asad Shafiq and Haris Sohail in the final hour. Shah’s workload is now becoming a concern.
The leg-spinner bowled 29 overs on Thursday after hurling down 84 in the first Test and bowling 57 overs for Kent in the county championship in his previous first-class game. With Hasan Ali out and Amir walking off the field right before stumps, Pakistan have put all their eggs in one basket.