Rain is threatening to wash out cricket history this week as Sri Lanka face the very real prospect of finishing their tour of Pakistan without playing a single over of cricket.
Unseasonal rain in Karachi washed out the first ODI on Friday and that forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to reschedule the second ODI for Monday instead of Sunday. The third and final match is scheduled at the same venue on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka have had just two training sessions since they arrived in Pakistan last Tuesday where they will also play three Twenty20s in Lahore between October 5-9.
“Even before we came here the preparations were hampered by rain (in Sri Lanka), it seems as if it’s raining in the whole world,” said Sri Lanka coach Rumesh Ratnayake, who played 23 test matches and 70 ODIs for Sri Lanka.
“The prep hasn’t all been that good but that’s not going to be an excuse which I will give because they are all professional players.”
Ten of Sri Lanka’s top players refused to travel to Pakistan for the limited-overs series due to security concerns despite the Pakistan government providing the team with high level security normally reserved for heads of state.
“Even though 10 players aren’t here, the people who have taken their place are aware that they are challenged to do well, it’s for their future also, so hope there won’t be any rain,” Ratnayake added.
Karachi hasn’t hosted an ODI in 10 years since Sri Lanka last played here in 2009. It is the first time since Sri Lanka’s team bus was attacked in Lahore in 2009 that a foreign team has conducted, or attempted to, a two-week tour of Pakistan.
Major teams have avoided the country since that ambush, which killed eight people and injured several players.
England skipper Joe Root was a happy man after seeing his side draw the Ashes series 2-2 following a 135-run win at The Oval.
Four wickets each from Stuart Broad and Jack Leach helped to wrap up victory as Australia, who had already retained the urn, were bowled out for 263 in their second innings with Jofra Archer’s six for 62 in the first having laid the foundation.
Root said: “We were excellent this week. Having lost the toss, to play as we did was fantastic. We drove the game all the time and got there in the end.
“Jofra makes things happen, and he’s backed up with other skilful bowlers. Collectively we’ve shown a lot of character throughout the whole series. We were not always at our best, but we’ve fought really hard. Credit to Tim (Paine) and his team.”
England’s man of the series Ben Stokes admitted his disappointment at not being able to win back the Ashes, but said he and his team-mates were able to take some comfort from drawing the series.
Stokes said: “Obviously it was disappointing in Manchester for us to know that we couldn’t get the Ashes back.
“But we turned up here this week knowing that we still had a huge amount of pride and the Test Championship to play for, and we managed to draw the series, which was the goal at the end of this game.”
Man of the series Steve Smith saluted Australia’s retention of the urn at the end of a “spectacular” contest after seeing Matthew Wade sign off with a century.
Smith said: “It’s been an amazing couple of months in England. The cricket’s been spectacular. The series has ebbed and flowed.
“I’ve loved every minute and am proud to have been able to perform for Australia and bring the urn home.
“The middle of the wicket still played pretty well, and Wade applied himself, batted beautifully today. But England played terrific cricket.”
Australia captain Paine was disappointed to have lost the fifth Test, but proud of his side’s performances over the series.
Asked if he had any regrets, Paine said: “Regrets? I’ve got a couple – to start with, the toss. We didn’t take our chances on day one, we didn’t back up our bowlers.
“England got ahead of the game. I can’t read a pitch so I’m always 50-50. We’ve got to bat, bowl better than we did in this Test match.
“No doubt today puts a dampener on it, but from where this group’s come from, to retain the Ashes is still a big deal.”
England resumed on 271-8 on the second day of the fifth – and final – Test when they attempted to draw the latest Ashes series with Australia.
The unlikely figure of Mitchell Marsh ripped through the hosts’ batting line-up on Thursday’s opening day at The Oval.
For England to stand any chance of making it 2-2, Jos Buttler – on 64 not out – needed to fire them towards a competitive first-innings total.
Australia, instead, looked to blast through the tail end and then get to work on a pitch which appeared favourable to batting.
Find out how they get on by following ball-by-ball updates below: