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Milestone-man Herath spins out Pakistan

03 October 2017




Veteran spinner does it again, reaching 400 wickets while taking six to earn Sri Lanka thrilling first Test win

Pakistan v Sri Lanka Tests, First Test


Rangana Herath became the second Sri Lankan to bag 400 wickets as his six-wicket haul steered Sri Lanka to a thrilling 21-run win over Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The veteran left-arm spinner took 6-43 – 11-136 in the match – to scupper Pakistan, set a modest 136-run target, for just 114 on a weary fifth day Sheikh Zayed Stadium pitch.

The victory was achieved when Herath trapped last man Mohammad Abbas lbw for nought to give Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

Herath, a long-time nemesis of Pakistan, also completed 100 wickets in 20 Tests against the subcontinental opponents, during an innings in which only debutant Haris Sohail fought with some resolve for his 34.

Herath became the 14th most successful bowler in all Test cricket and fifth spinner behind his countryman Muthiah Muralitharan, Australia's Shane Warne and the Indian duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to reach the 400-wicket milestone.

An unassuming Herath said he couldn't put his finger on his continued success against Pakistan. 

"I have no idea," said the 39-year-old, who took 22 wickets against Pakistan in 2014 – a world record for a two-match series.

"Maybe I have played more against them, that's why. I am so happy with the remarkable achievement."

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed called the defeat "disappointing".

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"We should have won this," said Sarfraz, skippering his side for the first time in a Test. "We have a few issues, especially in the fifth day when we come under pressure."

The 136 set Pakistan was Sri Lanka's lowest defended target, improving on the 168 they set the Pakistanis in the Galle Test in 2009. It was also a first defeat for Pakistan at this venue in 10 Tests.

Earlier, leg-spinner Yasir Shah took 5-51 – his 32nd five-wicket haul in Tests – to dismiss Sri Lanka for 138 in their second innings.

Niroshan Dickwella ensured Sri Lanka had something to defend with a pugnacious 40.

Pakistan started the chase on a shaky note when Herath dismissed opener Sami Aslam for two before accounting for Asad Shafiq, who made 20.

Herath had taken 5-93 in Pakistan's first innings of 422 and this time he shared the new ball with Suranga Lakmal to put the hosts in trouble with regular wickets.

Perera then had Shan Masood (seven) and a shaky Babar Azam for three to leave Pakistan struggling at 4-32.

In between, fast bowler Lakmal had Azhar Ali caught behind for nought.

On either side of tea, Sohail and Sarfraz (19) fought hard to stitch together a 42-run stand but Herath provided the breakthrough when he forced the Pakistan skipper out of his crease and had him stumped by Dickwella.

Perera ended Sohail's fight by trapping him lbw and also had Yasir but it turned out to be a no-ball, halting Sri Lanka's celebrations, which were eventually provided by Herath.  

Pakistan, led by Yasir, had bowled well in the morning.

After resuming on 4-69, Sri Lanka lost their last six wickets for 69 but Dickwella still put up a lone fight – hitting four boundaries – and more importantly giving Sri Lanka a target to fight.

Pakistan were given two key wickets by medium-fast bowler Mohammad Abbas who finished with 2-22.

It was then left to Yasir, who on consecutive deliveries dismissed Perera for six and then had Herath caught by close in fielder to complete his fourth consecutive five-wicket haul in as many Tests.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.