Noman Ali’s 7-fer helps Pakistan trample down Sri Lanka on Day 4
Noman Ali barred the play from getting into the fifth day after striking an astounding seven-wicket haul to bundle down the hosts on a score of 188 runs. A thumping win with the margin of an inning and 222 runs meant the skipper Babar Azam and his Shaheen registered a historic series-win triumph on Lankan soil after 17 years.
Despite having a humongous lead at the end of Day 3, Pakistan did not make an overnight declaration and aimed to put up a mammoth target for the home team. The same was signalled by the intent of the batters on the crease early in the morning on Day 4.
A couple of boundaries by Mohammad Rizwan against Prabath Jayasuriya in the second over of the day saw the Shaheens reach the lead of 400 runs and brought up a robust 100-run partnership between the maestro batters.
Rizwan did not hold himself back and went on to register his half-century in the very same over at a speedy strike rate of 74.63. The celebrations were quickly followed by a declaration by the skipper Babar Azam as it seemed like the visitors decided to come out to bat only for the 31-year-old individual to complete his eighth test career half-century after starting the match on the reserves bench.
With a trail of 410 runs on the board, Pakistan started strongly with Shaheen Afridi’s darting delivery straightaway rapping the pads of Nishan Madushka.
From thereon, Sri Lanka’s second innings continued on a steady note as the openers brought up an opening partnership of 69 runs in 18 overs before Noman went through Madushka’s defense and rattled the stumps for the first time on the day.
The 36-year-old spinner who went wicketless in the first innings dented a first crack in the Lions’ batting on the maiden delivery of his second innings’ spell. Lanka switched gears after the fall of the opening wicket and adopted a defensive approach against the opposition with whom they aggressively fought in the earlier phase.
Kusal Mendis stepped down the wicket and lofted the ball twice to clear the fielders in the ring and get two boundaries in Noman’s second over helping the hosts finish the first session at 81-1 and in for a fight.
A wicket in the first session gave momentum to Noman who stuck to his plan of bowling at tight length and eventually succeeded by pressing the nerves of the Lankan batters again and again. The Lions’ middle order collapsed like a house of cards post lunch and the veteran left-arm spinner was the chief architect behind the prowess of striking three wickets in just a short span of seven overs.
Dimuth Karunaratne was looking good in his stay on the pitch which was ended by a flighted delivery from Noman as the Sri Lankan spinner’s attempted defense ended up in the palms of the forward short leg.
Former skipper Angelo Mathews came in to bat next and struck two boundaries quickly before Kusal Mendis played an irresponsible shot straight into the hands of Saud Shakeel at cover. While Mathews continued the onslaught with two more maximums, Dinesh Chandimal gloved the ball and Imam-ul-Haq completed his second catch at forward short leg on the day.
Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva made diligent efforts to save the home side from a middle-order crisis and were also able to prevent the collapse for a while but not for a longer period.
It did not take long for Ali to get off the individual milestone of a five-wicket haul as the in-form de Silva lost his patience and got caught up while slogging a stretched delivery which ended up in the palms of the long-on fielder as the all-rounder could only muster 10 runs in the second innings after the half-century in the first innings.
Right before wrapping up the second session, Noman was able to deliver yet another blow and headed towards the tea break having six wickets under his helm. Sadeera Samarawickrama was put out of his misery as he ended his innings with a chipped shot and the catch was completed by Shan Masood at point.
Babar Azam finally got back to his speedsters and handed the ball to Naseem Shah to open the bowling for the final session while Noman continued from the other end. Naseem Shah came very close to bringing an end to the bravery of Ramesh Mendis in the third and fourth delivery of the 62nd over but the third umpire’s intervention through DRS turned down the dismissal on both occasions. Amidst the 28-year-old’s struggle for survival, Mathews firmly answered all tricky questions asked by Naseem and celebrated his fighting half-century with a boundary.
Abrar Ahmed’s constant failure to put up the wicket-taking threat forced captain Azam to bring back his trump card Noman which finally led to the departure of Mendis and end the 36-run partnership between Mathews and Mendis. Substitute wicket-keeper Rizwan pulled out the bails as Mendis stepped out and missed the ball completely leading to his downfall.
Just when the left-arm spinner was inching towards the 10-wicket haul heroics, Naseem bumped and joined the party by finishing the Lankan tail in no time. He scalped the rest of the wickets inside two overs as the likes of Prabath Jayasuriya, Asitha Fernando, and Dilshan Madushanka couldn’t even open their run-scoring account as all three batters were cleaned up by the fast bowler.
Angelo Mathews bravely held one end throughout the innings and only returned to the pavilion heavy-heartedly with an unbeaten tag and a defeat by an innings and 222 runs at the back. The men from the land of Pakistan turned their series-win prowess even more glorious after delivering the heaviest-ever home defeat to Sri Lanka in the longest format. It also marked the end of the Lankan Whites’ undefeated run at home which spanned two years with a 2-0 series loss.