Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan ended on Wednesday night as the guests completed a 3-0 clean-sweep in their Twenty20 series with a 13-run victory in Lahore.
Here are our five takeaways from the series.
The results were only the icing on the cake. The actual cake was the successful hosting of a guest that had literally been hurt under our care a decade ago.
They came, they stayed, they left and nothing untoward happened. It’s clichéd to say this, but cricket did win.
It was under threat from the horrific past, some scheming neighbours and our own internal incompetency, but the gentleman’s sport still found a way.
The Lankans stayed in Pakistan for 13 days, played five matches and showed the world that this is not the Pakistan of the past, particularly when it comes to the security situation.
Now bring on Australia and England.
Resilient Sri Lanka
Now a thought for the Sri Lankan players' resilience and perseverance. Any side hit by as many as 10 withdrawals would have been content with just making up numbers. This Sri Lanka side did not embarrass itself even once in the five outings on Pakistani soil.
They lost both the ODIs but were far more competitive than their hosts were in the T20Is. Granted that the absence of any expectations must have made their job a bit easier, but what they gain here is far outweighed by what they lost by being deprived of so many of their regulars.
Hats off to this plucky Sri Lankan team that defined the odds and made the world’s best T20I side look like amateurs.
Competition is good
Another reason why we need to invite higher ranked teams to Pakistan is the competition they bring. The two ODIs Pakistan won flopped in terms of exciting the locals. The interest was low, the match attendance was lower, and no one really cared.
Then Sri Lanka emerged as a force in the T20Is and suddenly everyone got interested. The Pakistan team was under the cosh, much to their fans’ dismay, but that exactly is what created a buzz. There was a team in town that was giving our flat-track bullies a hard time. It spawned subplots such as Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad and kept things interesting.
I, as a cricket fan before a Pakistan fan, would rather take that than see my team mercilessly dominate some minnows or has-beens.
Rookie mistake on Pakistan's end
And now a thought for the miserable 16. The T20I loss was the doing of unnecessary tweaking, rotating and underestimating the opponents. What Misbah and Co and everyone else thought was they could steamroll the Sri Lankans because we’re number one and they’re somewhere at the bottom.
That was a rookie mistake. Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad were given opportunities because even they could not misfire against the Lankans, right? The impressive Iftikhar Ahmed was benched and Abid Ali wasn’t even picked; Fakhar Zaman was benched when he was scoring; Haris Sohail was rested — all of these ins and outs never let anyone settle.
The weakest links
There is no point flogging dead horses named Akmal and Shehzad. Been there, done that. Others mostly have form or confidence issues.
But Fakhar Zaman and Sarfaraz Ahmed are as indefensible as anyone has ever been. Zaman at least earned his keep in the ODI series.
Sarfaraz, on the other hand, is a massive, massive liability. That three-ball sequence to end the 18th over sums up his current state. Take a look at this commentary from ESPNcricinfo:
17.4 de Silva to Sarfaraz Ahmed, no run, inside edge onto pad, Sarfraz wants to lace this through midwicket with a slog sweep
17.5 de Silva to Sarfaraz Ahmed, no run, inside edge onto pad again, Another slow googly outside off, another attempted slog
17.6 de Silva to Sarfaraz Ahmed, OUT. Short of a length, googly. Sarfraz static and upright this time - but still playing a slog
He tried the same shot twice but missed. On the third attempt, he just gave up, repeated just so he could be put out of his misery. This has gone on for too long now. The man needs to go.