A team that has not won any of its previous eight Test series" following the retirement of its greatest bowler" against a team that has been unbeaten in its previous seven' No contest@ Recent history suggested so but current form prevailed in the first Test' Like they had in the ODIs" Pakistan~s batsmen proved brittle again" against Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath" and against umpires Steve Davis and Ian Gould' Would Pakistan have imploded had Sri Lanka~s top)order batsmen not been reprieved by the umpires in the first innings@
What we do know is that Pakistan missed their captain Misbah)ul)Haq" who was banned from the Galle Test because of an over)rate offence during the fifth ODI' Going into the first Test of an away series ) already without a warm)up game ) without your captain" can be disastrous' When that captain is Misbah" and when that side is Pakistan" the absence seems magnified'
Not only have Pakistan won five" drawn two and lost zero series under Misbah" but he has also averaged 64'72 with the bat during that period' Reviled for his poor strike)rate" Misbah possesses what the thrill)a)minute dashers don~t ) calmness' During Sri Lanka~s second innings in Galle" when another umpiring error denied Pakistan the wicket of Prasanna Jayawardene" Misbah~s reaction in the dressing room was telling' He put his index finger up in a mock ~out~ signal and smiled broadly" managing to hide all the disappointment and anger within'
Like a general who knows what makes his troops tick" Misbah goads Pakistan in the right direction" and keeps potential irritants at bay' He has squeezed consistency out of unpredictability' Such is his lot" though" that he gets brickbats from fans for taking the thrills of volatility away' Volatility was on display in Galle" and led to Pakistan~s heaviest defeat to Sri Lanka in terms of runs'
The new ball was Pakistan~s problem in Galle" while bowling and batting' Their quicks could not get it to do much" and their batsmen could not survive when Kulasekara got it to move' There is much quality in both spin attacks" and both dominated in Galle'
Sri Lanka did what winning sides usually do in the subcontinent" they batted big in the first innings" struck early with the new ball" and let the spinners take over' They will look to repeat the dose in Colombo'