Sharjah: Pakistan extended their impressive run in Test cricket since the spot-fixing scandal deprived them of three first-choice players, securing a series win over Sri Lanka on a rare rain-hit day in Sharjah. Fittingly, Misbah-ul Haq, the man who took over as captain and provided a backbone to a team that was in disarray last year, remained unbeaten to ensure there were no implosions and confirm the draw.
The result extends Sri Lanka's winless streak to 14 Tests, again highlighting their struggle to come to terms with the loss of Muttiah Muralitharan. They betrayed a lack of killer instinct by batting on the final day of this must-win Test, despite a three-hour rain delay. They were 237 ahead by stumps on the fourth day, a sufficiently large lead in a match where the run-rate had been around two-and-a-half over the first four days, but they weren't confident enough to declare at the start of play when 67.2 overs remained. Instead of going all out for a victory, they inexplicably batted out four overs before calling an end to their innings.
Pakistan needed a high-octane start if they were to make a serious tilt at the target of 255 in 61 overs. Their openers began briskly, with Mohammad Hafeez slashing a couple of fours past point early on. Pakistan were 20 for 0 midway through the fifth over, but their momentum was taken away by a direct hit from substitute Lahiru Thirimanne at midwicket, which caught Hafeez short.
Taufeeq Umar and the usually watchful Azhar Ali decided to shut shop, and Pakistan focused on playing out the overs for a draw. With the Sri Lanka spinners getting some turn, Pakistan scratched out six runs in an 11-over spell. Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv kept the batsmen on a leash, and Sri Lanka employed a clutch of close-in fielders as they hunted for quick wickets.
Sri Lanka's strikes came from contrasting deliveries. A ripper from Herath accounted for Azhar, trapped lbw after the ball drifted in before curling sharply away, while Younis Khan was dismissed by a pedestrian length delivery that he punched to the mid-on fielder.
Still, Taufeeq firmly resisted and Misbah showed off his defensive mastery once again to drain Sri Lanka's hopes. Their 15-over blockade nearly put the match to bed, but Sri Lanka perked up when Taufeeq irresponsibly slapped a short Randiv ball to Kumar Sangakkara at point. The spinners persevered and should have had another breakthrough when Asad Shafiq nicked to the keeper but the umpire failed to spot it.
It was comfortable for Pakistan in the end, with Shafiq and Misbah stonewalling 16 overs in the fading light. Misbah even shared a light-hearted moment with Sangakkara as the match wound down, jokingly imitating a left-hand batsman. With Pakistan winning their first series over a better-ranked team since 2005, Misbah could well afford to smile.