Pakistan were so clinical in finishing Sri Lanka off on the fourth day that you wondered if this was the same group of players that is known for losing its way in the final furlong. They remained patient and persistent even when fortune didn't favour them or even when a late partnership held them up. The pitch with variable bounce and turn did the rest for them. Pakistan began the day 76 ahead with nine wickets to take, their bowlers shared the early spoils, and then Saeed Ajmal ran through the tail - no mean feat considering their recent travails with lower orders - to register his third five-for in Tests. The fielders turned up too, diving in desperation for every ball remotely within reach and not missing a single catch, and the batsmen made short work of the 94-run target.
Pakistan attacks are reputed to be mercurial and extravagantly talented, but it is an underrated virtue that stood out today - patience. The biggest test of their patience came last afternoon when Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga Paranavitana enjoyed good fortune with edges not going to hand, and the good deliveries turning out to be too good to take the edges. The bowlers, though, kept it tight and did not go looking for magic balls. The rewards duly came.
They were helped by Sri Lanka's failure to attempt to disrupt their rhythm by hitting out. Some help also came their way from the umpires. Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan fell lbw to decisions you couldn't be sure of, but the balance was restored a bit - so to speak - when Angelo Mathews survived a pretty adjacent call. Mathews went on to delay Pakistan with yet another impersonation of the boy on the burning deck but, as with Paranavitana's fifty, there was no sting in the innings to hurt Pakistan.
The two efforts didn't prove to be the kind of denial that has recently led to Pakistan bowling's wilting. Paranavitana did try to show some intent in the fourth over of the morning when he lofted Abdur Rehman over mid-on for four. Rehman had troubled all left-handed batsmen with his flat trajectory and accuracy, repeatedly hitting the rough outside their off stumps. Soon, though, Paranavitana saw Sangakkara walk back in disgust, and went back into his shell.
Sangakkara's reaction seemed justified. He had taken a big stride in a forward defensive when Rehman got one to turn in extravagantly and hit him half inside the line of off. Even if the umpire Tony Hill adjudicated that Sangakkara was trying to hide his bat behind the pad, the ball turned massively, had a long way to travel, and in all likelihood would have missed leg.
Pakistan now turned the screw tighter. Umar Gul gave Mahela Jayawardene a stern examination with the ball holding its line outside off. Paranavitana hung on grimly against Ajmal's turn. Runs were not even an afterthought. Their partnership added 18 in 11.3 overs. Jaywardene was sent back by a smart bit of bowling from Ajmal. The first big offbreak got Jayawardene trying extra hard to get outside the line of off. To the next delivery, Jayawardene premeditated a paddle from outside off, and Ajmal bowled the quicker offbreak that turns less, and went behind him to knock the leg stump out.
The under-pressure captain Dilshan was outside the crease when a swinging Junaid Khan delivery from round the stumps hit him in front of middle. Again, the ball was moving in and had a considerable distance to travel. In Junaid's next over, though, Mathews padded up to one that hit him just outside off and would have taken off and middle.
Mathews was lucky to survive that, but even though he and Paranavitana defended for their lives, neither got rid of close-in catchers nor did they make the bowlers change their plans. The dangerous wicket-taking delivery with their name on it was lurking around all the time. Paranavitana found his end soon after lunch when Ajmal tossed up an offbreak that finally took a healthy edge and went straight to slip.
To compound Sri Lanka's troubles, the new ball was due then and brought immediate results when Kaushal Silva top-edged Junaid. For a brief period after that Dhammika Prasad took the bowlers on and Pakistan backed off for a while. With Mathews he added 52 at four an over, but Pakistan got the chance to regroup during the tea break.
In the first over after the interval, Rehman cleaned Prasad up with an arm ball. Once again Pakistan had refused to wilt. The tail tried to steal valuable runs in the end, but Ajmal was too good for them. Mathews, who tried to farm the strike but didn't go for the big hits, remained unbeaten.
Misbah, who had made all the correct moves this match, right from the team's selection to the bowling changes, took the lead role in the huddle with what seemed like an impassioned speech. Not sure if he told Mohammad Hafeez he wanted Sunday off, but the opener came out in a positive mood with just 23 overs to go in the day. The ball still misbehaved, but after two fours in the first over and a huge six in Rangana Herath's first over, you knew Hafeez had had enough of this heat. Azhar Ali joined the fun when he lofted Dishan over long-off. All in all, it was a pretty fine way to bring up their first Test win over Sri Lanka in five years, in the anniversary week of their maiden Test victory.