Swing, Spin, and Swagger: Comprehensive Breakdown of Pakistan’s Dominant 2-0 Test Series Victory Against Sri Lanka

Series Summary

The two-match Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka took place in July 2023. The first Test was played at Galle while the second Test took place at SSC, Colombo. Pakistan won both matches convincingly to clinch the series 2-0.

First Test

The first Test match was played at Galle from the 16th to the 20th of July 2023.

First Innings

Sri Lanka batted first after winning the toss. They scored 312 runs in their first innings. Dhananjaya De Silva was the top scorer with 122 runs. For Pakistan, debutant spinner Abrar Ahmed picked up 3 wickets for 68 runs.

In reply, Pakistan posted a mammoth total of 461 runs in their first innings. The backbone of their innings was Saud Shakeel who scored a brilliant double century, 208 runs. Ramesh Mendis was the pick of the Lankan bowlers taking 5 wickets for 136 runs.

Second Innings

Following on, Sri Lanka managed 279 runs in their second innings. Dhananjaya De Silva top scored again with 82 runs. Abrar Ahmed once again picked up 3 wickets conceding 68 runs.

Chasing a target of 131 runs, Pakistan comfortably reached the target in 37 overs losing 6 wickets. Imam-ul-Haq scored 50 runs. For Sri Lanka, Prabath Jayasuriya picked up 4 wickets.

Match Result

Pakistan won the first Test match by 4 wickets.

Man of the Match

Saud Shakeel for his brilliant 208 runs in the first innings.

Second Test

The second Test was played at SSC, Colombo from 24th to 28th July 2023.

First Innings

Batting first after winning the toss, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 166 runs. Dhananjaya De Silva top scored with 57 runs. For Pakistan, debutant Abrar Ahmed once again shone taking 4 wickets for 69 runs.

In reply, Pakistan batted big and declared their first innings at 576/5. Opener Abdullah Shafique played a sublime knock of 201 runs. For the hosts, Asitha Fernando picked up 3 wickets.

Second Innings

Following on, Sri Lanka fared poorly in their second innings and were bowled out for 188 runs. Angelo Mathews made 63 runs. Spinner Noman Ali ran through the Lankan batting picking up 7 wickets for just 70 runs.

Match Result

Pakistan won the second Test match by a huge margin of an innings and 222 runs.

Man of the Match

Abdullah Shafique for his brilliant double century, 201 runs in the first innings.

Player of the Series

Agha Salman was awarded the Player of the Series for his outstanding all-round performance.

In the first Test, he took 3 wickets in the first innings and scored a crucial 83 runs. He finished off the chase in style by hitting a six.

In the second Test, he smashed a quickfire century, scoring 132 runs off just 154 balls.

Overall in the series, Salman scored 221 runs and picked up 3 wickets.

Top Performers

From Pakistan:

  • Abdullah Shafique: 3 Innings, 228 Runs, 1 Double Hundred at an average of 76
  • Saud Shakeel: 3 Innings, 1 Double Hundred, and 1 Fifty, Scored 295 runs at an average of 147.5
  • Agha Salman: 3 Innings, 1 Hundred and 1 Fifty Scored 221 runs at an average of 221
  • Abrar Ahmed: 4 innings, 10 wickets at an average of 23.9
  • Naseem Shah: 4 Innings, 9 Wickets at an average of 23
  • Noman Ali: 4 innings, 10 wickets at an average of 20

From Sri Lanka:

  • Dhananjaya De Silva and Angelo Mathews played well in batting.
  • In bowling, only Prabath Jayasuriya and Ramesh Mendis are worth discussing.

Positives for Pakistan

Shaheen Afridi’s Comeback

Shaheen Afridi made an impressive comeback to Test cricket after recovering from a knee injury. He was the standout bowler for Pakistan, taking 11 wickets in the series at an average of 17.18. Afridi generated a good pace and swing to trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen. 

He picked up 4-58 in the first innings of the second Test, running through the top order. Afridi reached the milestone of 100 Test wickets during the series. 

His opening bursts provided Pakistan with early breakthroughs and put pressure on the opposition. His return has strengthened Pakistan’s bowling attack.

Naseem Shah’s Outclass Bowling

The young fast bowler Naseem Shah delivered an outstanding bowling performance throughout the series. 

He used reverse swing to lethal effect, bamboozling the Sri Lankan batsmen. Naseem picked up 9 wickets at an average of 23 and was able to generate reverse swing even on unresponsive pitches. 

Naseem also contributed handy lower-order runs. 

He reached the milestone of 50 Test wickets during the series. His ability to bowl well in Asian conditions bodes well for Pakistan.

Saud Shakeel: The Next Rising Star

Middle-order batsman Saud Shakeel emerged as the next rising star for Pakistan with his stellar batting display. 

He smashed his maiden double century in the first Test, a marathon innings of 208 runs. 

Saud became the first batter in Cricket History to hit 7 fifties in his first 7 Test matches, breaking greats like Javed Miandad and Inzamam’s records. 

He finished as the leading run-scorer of the series, amassing 295 runs at a staggering average of 147.50. 

Saud has shown immense concentration, solid technique, and patience during his short Test career so far. His rise has strengthened the middle order.

Abdullah Shafique

Opener Abdullah Shafique produced a splendid performance in the second Test, scoring a career-best 201 runs. He seems to love batting against Sri Lanka and in Sri Lankan conditions. 

Abdullah notched up his maiden Test double ton, exhibiting solid technique, good concentration, and the ability to build his innings. 

Abdullah finished the series with 228 runs at an average of 76.00. His solidity provides Pak with a good start.

Agha Salman

The young all-rounder Agha Salman contributed stellar performances with both bat and ball. 

He scored a crucial 83 in the first Test and an attacking century in the second Test. Salman compiled 221 runs at an incredible average of 221 for the series. 

He also chipped in with 3 important wickets. His emergence provides much-needed depth to Pakistan’s fragile middle order. 

Salman has the power-hitting abilities and the skills to make an impact across formats.

Noman Ali Back in Form

After indifferent form in Tests over the past year, spinner Noman Ali found his rhythm again with a match-winning 7 wicket haul in the second Test. He finished with a career-best figures of 7/70 in the fourth innings, bamboozling the opposition with his accurate left-arm spin. 

Noman ended up taking 10 wickets in the series at an average of 20.50, providing good support to his fellow bowlers. His strong comeback is a positive sign going forward.

Babar’s Captaincy

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam led from the front with an aggressive and bold approach to captaincy. He made good bowling changes, attacking field placements, and provided an aggressive intent. 

Babar’s leadership silenced some of the recent criticism directed against him. The way he marshaled the troops and led Pakistan’s fightback in the first Test was particularly impressive.

Pakistan’s Fielding

The Pakistan team exhibited a marked improvement in their ground fielding, catching, and athleticism as compared to the inconsistent displays over the past years. 

The players took some splendid catches in the slip cordon and the short leg. Run-outs like Shan Masood’s direct hit also affected the outcome of passages of play. The fielding provided crucial support to the bowling performances.

Aggressive Mindset

Against Sri Lanka’s spin-dominated attack, the Pakistani batsmen displayed intent and an aggressive mindset. They attacked the bowlers, using sweeps effectively, and maintained a healthy run rate. Even in bowler-friendly conditions, the approach was to dominate. The fightback led by Saud and Salman in the first Test was a testament to this attitude. This aggression and fearless batting are reminiscent of the ‘Bazball’ approach.

Shan Masood’s Fearless Batting

Opening batter Shan Masood played aggressively and took the attack to the bowlers. He played attacking shots from the outset, showing positive intent. 

Masood’s approach led to quickfire innings even in difficult conditions. His new fearless approach compared to his previous defensive style is a welcome change.

He scored 39 off 30 balls in the first innings of the First Test and scored 51 off 47 balls in the second Test.

Planning and Strategy

The team management had done extensive planning and preparation coming into the series. 

The bowlers had well-thought-out plans and strategies against each Sri Lankan batsman. 

Similarly, the batting approach accounted for the threat of spin and adjusted accordingly. 

The execution of plans A, B, and C was evident across all departments. This is a very positive sign for Pakistan Cricket going forward.

Pakistan Cricket Team Celebrating after winning 2nd Test and Series Against Sri Lanka 2023 Photo by: THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL
Pakistan Cricket Team Celebrating after Winning 2nd Test and Series Against Sri Lanka 2023

Concerns for Pakistan

Although it was a nearly perfect series for Pakistan Cricket Team, some concerns arouse in this series.

Babar Azam’s Batting

The Pakistan skipper Babar Azam had an underwhelming series with the bat. He was repeatedly dismissed by Prabath Jayasuriya, falling three times to the left-arm spinner.

Azam struggled against the turning ball and failed to adjust his technique against spin. 

His form is a concern given his status as Pakistan’s leading batsman and ICC rankings. Pakistan will hope Babar can overcome this recent slump.

Here is Babar Azam’s performance against Sri Lanka in the 2023 Test series:

FormatMatchesInningsRuns ScoredAverageHigh Score
Babar Azam’s performance against Sri Lanka in the 2023 Test series

Upcoming Challenges

While Pakistan played outstanding cricket against Sri Lanka, they face bigger challenges ahead. The upcoming away Test series against Australia in December 2023 will be a much stiffer test of their skills. 

The fast, bouncy Australian pitches will be an examination of the batsmen’s techniques and the bowler’s skills. Maintaining the same level of performance as they showed in Sri Lanka will be Pakistan’s main challenge going forward. 

The consistency of their star performers will come under scrutiny during the Australia tour and the World Test Championship.

Australia Cricket Team Test Image by: Cricket Australia
Australia Cricket Team Test Image by: Cricket Australia

Pakistan’s WTC Schedule 2023-2025

Here is Pakistan’s schedule for the World Test Championship 2023-2025 and their chances of qualifying for the final:

Dec 2023, Jan 2024Pakistan Tour of AustraliaAustralia3 Tests
Feb 2024, Mar 2024West Indies Tour of PakistanPakistan2 Tests
Aug 2024, Sept 2024Bangladesh Tour of PakistanPakistan2 Tests
Oct 2024England Tour of PakistanPakistan3 Tests
Dec 2024Pakistan Tour of South AfricaSouth Africa2 Tests

With strong performances in upcoming tours, Pakistan has a good chance of qualifying for the World Test Championship final in 2025. However, away tours to Australia and South Africa will be challenging. Consistent performances from batsmen and bowlers will be key.

Misbah Holding Test Mace Image by: The Express Tribune

So in summary, Pakistan completely outplayed Sri Lanka in the 2-match Test series to win it 2-0. Standing out performers were Saud Shakeel, Abdullah Shafique, Agha Salman, Abrar Ahmed, and Naseem Shah. The team displayed great skills, commitment, and an aggressive brand of cricket. They will be looking to build on the positives and maintain the same level of performance in upcoming tours.

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