Pakistan, not for a moment, looked in control of the Galle Test. From day one, it was Sri Lanka that dominated the Test. And a lot of credit for that should go to the way Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara batted on the opening day. Contrasting tons by the two men was just what Sri Lanka needed after winning the toss and deciding to bat first. Had the hosts lost a couple of more wickets in the opening session after the fall of Tharanga Parnavitana’s wicket, the story could have been different. After all, the Lankan batting floundered early on the second day, and it was only the start that they got and some dogged batting from Sangakkara that acted as buffers against the incisive Pakistan attack.
Once they put up a 450 plus score on the board, it was imperative for Sri Lanka to strike early. Here as well, their bowlers were up to the task. The spinners exploited the conditions particularly well, after Nuwan Kulasekara delivered the early blows. Both Suraj Randiv and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath tossed the ball up and were rewarded in a suitable manner. The triumph was particularly crucial from the point of view that Lanka have struggled to win matches since the time Muttiah Muralitharan retired two seasons ago. They did manage to pull off a spectacular victory in Durban against South Africa, but that was more an exception that the rule. The fact that both Randiv and Herath performed against Pakistan, a team renowned to be great players of spin, would encourage them even further.
Even as the spinners did well, the performance of seamer Kulasekara was impressive. Ever since Lasith Malinga quit the longer version of the game, Sri Lanka have struggled with their pace bowling combination in Tests. Kulasekara is not in the same league as Malinga, pace or quality wise. However, he has been doing his job well. In ODIs, he has always been a consistent performer, but there have been question marks over his role in the team owing to his lack of speed. While that indeed is a hindrance since Lanka are missing a genuine fast bowler, Kulasekara has worked around his limitations and has done a more than acceptable job for the team. If Lanka can find a suitable for him, Kulasekara will become that much more effective.
As for Pakistan, the good news was that they did show some fight on the last day of the Test. Younis Khan returned to form with a fighting knock while Asaq Shafiq also played a patient hand. For a change, even the lower order stuck around for a while, delaying the inevitable. However, the fight came all too late for Pakistan, as the damage had already been done. Still, they could carry the confidence gained from the last day into the second Test.
--By A Cricket Analyst