The notoriously unpredictable Pakistan batting line-up has turned yet another corner. Last year, Misbahul Haq and his charges stunned the world with a jaw-dropping successful chase in the dying stages of the Sharjah Test against Sri Lanka. The confidence from that epic win was surely on the minds as the 377-run Pallekele chase began in the third Test against Sri Lanka. Immediately though, the jolt of losing Ahmed Shehzad and the hero of the Sharjah chase, Azhar Ali, in quick succession, ensured that gloom descended in the Pakistan camp. That gloom, however, was destined to be lifted as in a matter of three hours, opener Shan Masood produced a magnificent, stoic century to ward off the rampaging Sri Lankan bowlers. For company, he had arguably the country’s greatest Test batsman ever, Younus Khan. The two combined for a 242-run stand that was only broken after Pakistan were on the brink of a historic 2-1 series win. The fear of any last-minute hiccups was put to bed by an assured half-century by Misbah as Pakistan completed the sixth-highest chase in Test history.
Within a passage of 18 months, the vulnerable Pakistan batting line-up has pulled off two of the most stunning chases in Test history. Younus, meanwhile, has reaffirmed his status as a true batting legend with a staggering tally of five centuries in the fourth innings of a Test, leapfrogging players like Sunil Gavaskar. Pakistan’s Test fortunes have taken a U-turn since the 0-2 whitewash at the hands of the same Sri Lankan outfit last year. Since that reversal, Pakistan have walloped Australia, drawn a series with New Zealand, eased past Bangladesh and have now conjured up a memorable series win against Sri Lanka, catapulting them to third in the Test rankings. This superb show has coincided with the emergence of the wily leg-spinner Yasir Shah, his 24 scalps against Sri Lanka having made him a household name. One hopes this momentum is now taken forward in the One-Day International series in which Pakistan face the difficult task of ensuring qualification for the Champions Trophy.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.
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