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Incredible win for Pak

Misbah-ul Haq, on Monday

Sharjah: Pakistan came up with an incredible batting performance on the final day to stun Sri Lanka by five wickets and level the series here on Monday.

They turned the match on its head after lunch, scoring 302 in 57.3 overs. Their run-rate of 5.25 was the highest in a successful chase of a 300-plus target, and the heroes of this heist — Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed and Misbah-ul-Haq — proved that the soporific pace of the previous days was entirely by design, largely Sri Lanka’s to protect their 1-0 lead.

For the Test to end in a result, both teams needed to play extraordinary cricket. Pakistan were extraordinarily purposeful; Sri Lanka were extraordinarily negligent. Sri Lanka began the day with a lead of 220 and five second-innings wickets in hand, but batted slowly, adding 19 runs in the last 16.4 overs.

With a minimum of 59 overs left in two sessions, Sri Lanka were still favourites. But as Misbah-ul-Haq’s side motored towards the target with an unfamiliar efficiency, it became too late for Angelo Mathews to snap himself and his side out of stupor. Sri Lanka sank in the Sharjah twilight, with their captain and fielders feebly complaining about not being able to see the ball.

Pakistan needed 195 in 35 overs at the start of the final session, and they had made a tactical decision to send Sarfraz Ahmed in at No. 5, shortly before the tea break. He proved to be the catalyst, and the method he used to attack Rangana Herath’s defensive line oozed with resourcefulness.

While Sarfraz made use of his license to run riot, Azhar accumulated briskly in a more organised manner, driving the seamers and sweeping Herath off his negative line. With the field spread deep, Azhar picked off the gaps to get to his half-century off 79 balls.