Despite all the hype over Pakistan’s preparation to counter Rangana Herath, the team collapsed in the face of the ace spinner, going down by seven wickets on an eventful final day of the opening Galle Test against Sri Lanka. Taking the field for a Test match after a long gap was sure to have some effect on the team, but only its unpredictability can explain what transpired on the fifth day. After a dull four days — where batsmen racked up almost 1,000 runs — pundits and fans were ready to take a nap as Pakistan came out to bat. They were supposed to play out the final day, take a slight lead and give Sri Lanka an improbable target in the final few minutes, looking for a slight psychological edge before the second game.
What happened, however, is that Pakistan gave their fans a similar story of a batting collapse and a surprising defeat. Batting has long been the team’s weak point and no matter what statements are given or preparations made, it always boils down to the mindset. Sport is a battle half won in the mind and Pakistan showed their predisposition to falter in front of the Herath factor. They went into a shell on the final day — discounting Sarfraz Ahmed’s innings — and gave Herath what he wanted. A spinner is most dangerous when batsmen have decided not to score off him, which gives him the leeway to try out his armoury. Pakistan have failed to win a Test series since they whitewashed England in 2012, and more often than not, the criticism has been of their defensive approach — not technique — towards the game. Misbahul Haq is not a bad captain and is a very good batsman. However, someone needs to tell him to loosen up and attack. Why can’t a captain be calm, yet be attacking in approach? Pakistan cannot win the two-match series now. But with nothing to lose, the team has no choice but to go all out and push for a win in the second Test at Colombo.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2014.
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