Perera, Karunaratne shine as Sri Lanka thrash Pakistan to clinch Test series

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Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera finished with five wickets to help Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 68 runs in the second Test in Dubai on Tuesday and take the series 2-0.

Perera had figures of 5-98 as Pakistan, chasing a tough 317 to win, were bowled out for 248 in the second hour of fifth and final day at Dubai stadium.

Asad Shafiq fought hard during his 112-run knock – his 11th Test hundred — and together with his skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (68) added 173 for the sixth wicket.

But once their partnership was broken Sri Lanka, having already won the first Test by 21 runs in Abu Dhabi, quickly closed in on the victory.

This is Pakistan’s first series defeat at their adopted home of United Arab Emirates (UAE) in seven years. They had won five of the previous nine, with four drawn.

Pakistan were forced to play in the neutral venues of the UAE following the deadly terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.

This is also Pakistan’s first home defeat since losing to South Africa 1-0 in 2007, a series held on their grounds, and only the second whitewash in their history.

They previously suffered a 3-0 defeat against Australia, a series also played at neutral venues in Colombo and UAE in 2002.

Shafiq was the ninth man out when he edged paceman Suranga Lakmal to slip where Kusal Mendis took a low diving catch to end all Pakistan’s hopes of an upset win.

Shafiq’s 253-minute knock had 10 boundaries but he again failed to help Pakistan cross the line, just like his 137 in the lost cause against Australia at Brisbane last year.

Pakistan had looked to the overnight partnership of Shafiq and Ahmed to guide them to the winning target after resuming at 198-5, needing another 119 for victory.

Both Shafiq and Ahmed had lucky escapes but Perera finally broke the resistance when Ahmed was caught off a miscued sweep at deep fine leg by Nuwan Pradeep.

Ahmed hit five boundaries during his 130-ball knock.

Shafiq brought up his hundred with a paddled sweep single off Perera and was reprived on the same score when Dimuth Karunaratne dropped a low catch of the same bowler.

Perera then completed his five-wicket haul when he trapped Mohammad Amir – unable to bowl in the second innings with a shin injury – leg before for four, bringing Sri Lanka within three wickets of victory.

Yasir Shah was cleaned up by Rangana Herath while the victory was brought up when Herath had number 10 Wahab Riaz caught gleefully by skipper Dinesh Chandimal for one.

Sri Lanka had gained a decisive 220-run lead by scoring 482 in the first innings on the back of Karunaratne’s career best 196 and then bowled Pakistan out for 262.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Kagiso Rabada can do no wrong as he emerges as South Africa's pace leader

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Kagiso Rabada made his Test debut in November 2015 in India. Since then, the South African fast bowler has barely put a foot wrong with ball in hand.

The pacer is now 22 and after nearly two years in Test cricket, it’s the perfect time to assess his career. And judging by his 10-wicket haul against a hapless Bangladesh side in the second Test at Bloemfontein, it looks like Rabada is exactly where he should be.

Whenever an exciting young talent bursts onto the scene, one should wait for two seasons before considering the player as a long-term prospect.

Many things can happen in that period. A bowler can lose his shape after a promising start, can be overburdened by an eager team and pick up an injury or ultimately be worked out by opposition batsmen. It has happened before.

Sri Lankan mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis comes first to mind. 2008 was his year as he dismantled India in three Tests, picking up 26 wickets with his stupefying carom balls and wrong’uns. The very next year, his average shot up from under 19 to above 45.

He last played Tests in 2014, when he averaged over 40 in just two matches and has since faded from view as batsmen have solved any remaining mysteries regarding his bowling.

The next on that list is England seamer Steven Finn. Yes, he is still very much in the mix but is not the first-choice bowler he seemed destined to become when he started Tests in 2010.

His high-arm action and abundant pace provided him 46 wickets from 11 Tests at an average of 26 in 2010. Since then, a combination of indifferent form and fitness issues saw Finn in and out of the team.

Last year, the 28-year-old featured in nine Tests but his returns were far from impressive – 17 wickets at an average of more than 46.

Rabada seems to have negotiated the tricky first two years in the longest format spectacularly.

Rabada is arguably the best young Test bowler in the game at the moment.

Rabada is arguably the best young Test bowler in the game at the moment.

Last year, he picked up 46 wickets from nine matches at an average of 23.34 and this year, he is the highest wicket-taker in the longest format with 54 scalps from 10 matches at 20.96.

And he isn’t a one-format bowler either. Rabada’s played 15 ODIs in 2017, which makes for a substantial workload for a young man asked to lead the attack due to the change in fortunes of veteran quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Rabada became the youngest South African to 100 Test wickets and if he maintains his fitness and the team manages his workload judiciously, many records will surely fall along the way.

With India touring South Africa in the beginning of next year, Rabada will hope to set the record straight against the one team against whom he doesn’t have a good record – two wickets in three Tests in India.

The Proteas will surely look to give their pace spearhead as much help as they can to rattle the top-ranked Test side. And if he does so, Rabada can claim to be the best bowler in the world.

WILL YASIR SHAH BREAK?

Pakistan leggie Yasir Shah has bowled the most number of overs in Test cricket in the last three years. In 28 Tests, Shah’s workload has been 1541.1 overs which turns out to a remarkable average of more than 28 overs per innings.

Yasir Shah will have to manage an increasingly heavy workload.

Yasir Shah will have to manage an increasingly heavy workload.

The next in the list is Aussie offspinner Nathan Lyon (1502.5 overs in 36 Tests) and India’s Ravi Ashwin (1497.2 overs from 31 Tests).

As if the rigours of being the only specialist spinner in the Pakistan team weren’t enough, Shah has to now tackle the new fitness parameters that every Pakistan international player has to meet.

The leg-spinner passed a late fitness test before being made available for the current Sri Lanka series. Since the 31-year-old is a Test match specialist, failing the fitness test would have been catastrophic not only for him but the team as well.

Shah is now pushing his body more than ever to churn out the overs as Pakistan move to a three pacer/one spinner strategy and the team management puts in stricter standards for fitness.

If Shah thought bowling all those overs in the last three years were difficult, it will only get tougher as he is expected to raise his fitness and workload substantially after 31 years of age.

Hats off to him for enduring all this with a smile on his face.

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Australia opener Aaron Finch left flummoxed by mixed implementation of new ICC regulations in Ranchi defeat

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Finch was not aware that DRS was available for the Ranchi T20I.

Australia opening batsman Aaron Finch has had a stellar time individually in his side’s ongoing tour of India despite the results going against the visitors so far.

The Victoria batsman scored 42 runs, the highest by an Aussie in the match, during his side’s nine-wicket loss to India in the rain-curtailed first T20I between the two sides at Ranchi on Saturday.

The 30-year-old however was not happy about the mixed implementations of ICC’s new rules and regulations for T20Is in the defeat at Ranchi. It seemed that Finch had not been made aware that the Decision Review System (DRS) was in place during the match in keeping with the new ICC changes.

“I didn’t know there was a review system until about the fifth over. Nobody did,” Finch told ESPNCricinfo.

“Steve Smith, when he ran out a drink, mentioned it. So, we had to ask the umpires. But it is quite strange to have a crossover of rules for this series. I mean bat sizes and things like that are coming in at the end of the series,” he clarified.

India's Shikhar Dhawan acknowledged the inconsistency.

India’s Shikhar Dhawan acknowledged the inconsistency.

Previously there are had been provisions for DRS in T20Is and the new rule changes grant one review to each team in a match.

The new regulations also state that in case of a game being reduced to under 10 overs, the fielding side will be allowed to have two of its bowlers throw down two overs each. Hence, Australia should have been allowed the luxury of having two of its bowlers throw down two overs in the six-over chase for India.

Ultimately, only pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile was allotted two overs during Saturday, a point which has further irked Finch.

Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan empathised with his Australian counterpart on the gaffe but said the rules which are in place cannot be ignored.

“I’m sure they (Australia) would have felt the inconsistency,” Dhawan said. “But whatever is the rule, is the rule. I’m not exactly aware of the rule you were talking about. But, it is what it is,” he added.

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