Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in First Test

Rangana Herath skittled Pakistan with his left-arm spin to hand Sri Lanka a dramatic, 50-run victory in the first cricket Test here on Tuesday.

Herath grabbed 4-15 as Pakistan, chasing a modest target of 168, collapsed from a seemingly impregnable 71-2 to 117 all out in their second innings before lunch on the fourth day.

Fast bowler Thilan Thushara and spinner Ajantha Mendis chipped in with two wickets each as a jittery Pakistan lost their last eight batsmen for 46 runs at the Galle International Stadium.

The brilliant win gave Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series, the first between the two nations since gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in the Pakistani city of Lahore on March 3.

Seven Sri Lankan players were injured and eight local security men were killed in the attack, prompting the sport's governing body to move 2011 World Cup matches out of Pakistan.

Pakistan, who beat Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 final in London last month, now have four days to ponder the loss before the second Test starts at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo on July 12.

Kumar Sangakkara, leading Sri Lanka for the first time in a Test series, was delighted with the win, but said he was worried by the team's modest totals of 292 and 217 in the two innings.

"It was a great win by the side because, until today, Pakistan had outplayed us in the match," said Sangakkara.

"Rangana and Thushara were spot-on in their bowling. All credit to them for putting the ball in the right areas. It's nice when things work out.

"But honestly, we have a lot of thinking to do about our batting. We have to figure out our mindset, we need to be patient. There are no excuses. We have to perform every single time."

A stunned Pakistan captain Younus Khan said the team's lack of Test cricket -- just three Tests in the last 18 months -- had proved costly.

"I never thought we would lose this game because we needed only 97 runs today with eight wickets in hand," he said. "But Herath bowled so well and ensured we did not have any partnerships.

"I am not making excuses, but many of our boys have not played Test cricket for a long time, some not at all. It takes time to get used to it.

"I can't go out and play for them. They must learn to handle the pressure themselves."

Younus, however, promised an improved showing in the remaining two Tests.

"Pakistan are always slow starters," he said. "No one gave us a chance in the World Twenty20 and we won the title. I am certain we will come back strongly in the series.

"Wish we had won this one because then we would have needed to win only one more to take the series. Now we must win both games. It will be tough, but not impossible.

"We have done it before, we can do it again."

Herath, who replaced the injured Muttiah Muralitharan for this match, struck twice in the day's second over when he removed the overnight pair of Mohammad Yousuf and Salman Butt in the space of four deliveries.

Yousuf, century-maker in the first innings, was given out leg-before as he padded up to a straight ball from the left-armer that was headed for middle stump.

Left-handed Butt, who looked good while making 28 on Monday, appeared to lose concentration after Yousuf's departure and pulled Herath high to Tharanga Paranavitana at deep square-leg.

Wickets tumbled at regular intervals after that and Herath, later named man of the match, signalled the victory by having Abdur Rauf snapped up at first slip by former captain Mahela Jayawardene.

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