In what is becoming an increasingly familiar sight, the Pakistan batting line-up caved in tamely in the second innings of the Colombo Test to hand over the hosts a 2-0 win.
A target of 271 would have tested the best in the business on a turning wicket with Rangana Herath in the form of his life with the ball.
Expecting Pakistan to overhaul the target would not have been the wisest bet ever, yet the dismal collapse and capitulation once again left a woeful impression on cricket fans.
In the recent past, Pakistan batsmen have made a habit of succumbing to some ordinary bowling or bowlers who have struggled against all other Test nations.
For instance, Imran Tahir’s spell to dismantle the top order in the opening session of the Dubai Test last year still boggles the mind. Tahir has since then lost his place in the South African playing eleven and even on the turning tracks recently in Sri Lanka, he failed to make an impression.
After caving in against the spin of Rangana Herath in both Galle and Colombo (23 wickets in the series) Pakistan at least have raised the bar slightly since the pocket sized left-armer has wreaked similar havoc against a few other teams too.
Many believe that the batsmen have the ability to deliver consistently at the Test level, but freeze under pressure situation. However, these repeated failures are indicating that the batsmen are simply not equipped to perform on demanding wickets and situations.
The stunning Sharjah chase earlier in the year was clearly an aberration, and whatever momentum that was gained from there was duly lost due to a yawning gap between the end of that Test and the current series.
During the off-season, the players worked hard on their fitness. Improvised training sessions were also held to familiarise the batsmen with Sri Lankan conditions — a country they tour almost every year.
In the last five years, the two teams featured in five Test series before the current tour. The Sri Lankans, who were mesmerized by Saeed Ajmal in 2011, worked out a proper strategy to combat the bowler and negated his threat greatly both in the UAE and in Sri Lanka since then.
Misbah and his men have been capitulating to Herath since 2009, handing him as many as 76 wickets in 14 Tests. Sri Lanka have won six Tests in this period against Pakistan and Herath has played a stellar role in all six.
Ajmal, on the other hand, has helped Pakistan win a mere two Tests against the Islanders in the same period.
The Sri Lankan batsmen, led by their run-making machine Kumar Sangakkara, quickly changed their game plan to counter the threat of Ajmal.
Sangakkara was once again an almighty thorn in Pakistan’s flesh this series, amassing a double hundred to take his tally of hundreds against Pakistan to a staggering 10.
It is indeed depressing to note that the willow wielders wearing Pakistan colours failed to learn their lessons, and other than the sensational Sarfaraz Ahmed, refused to change their muddled approach.
The last series win for Misbah and his charges was the historic whitewash against England two years ago. The English team was flummoxed by Ajmal and Abdur Rehman in the UAE and even the attritional and at times dour approach to the game by Pakistan was camouflaged.
Soon the opposition cracked the Pakistan code of playing Test cricket, a code that even Zimbabwe deciphered easily.
As Shaharyar Khan starts his tenure at the helm of the Pakistan Cricket Board, he must eliminate the dead wood from the Test team and one hopes he is paying close attention.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2014.
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