SHARJAH: Pakistan remained undisturbed and focused despite the corruption scandal which sent three of their former players to jail as they beat a struggling Sri Lanka in the Test series here on Monday.
Former Test captain Salman Butt was on Thursday handed a 30-month prison term while Mohammad Asif got a year and Mohammad Amir six months for their roles in fixing the Lord's Test against England last year.
Pakistan, under a cool captain Misbah-ul Haq, salvaged a draw in the final match to take the three-Test series 1-0 on Monday after winning the second match in Dubai by nine wickets. The first Test in Abu Dhabi ended in a draw.
Misbah said players did think about the ugly episode but still remained focused.
“Of course, we did talk about that some time, but nobody got into it deeply and since we are here to play cricket, we remained focused on the work at hand because we wanted to do well,” said Misbah.
To his credit, the 37-year-old Misbah has not lost a series since taking over in the wake of the scandal in August last year, squaring 0-0 against South Africa, 1-1 with the West Indies, and beating New Zealand and Zimbabwe 1-0 each.
“This is a young bunch of players and it is gelling well,” said Misbah, who was sidelined for the England tour last year but came back as Test captain.
“The best part is that every player realises his responsibility and is playing for the team.”
Rain also helped Pakistan on the fifth and final morning as Sri Lanka, leading by 73 runs in the first innings, looked for quick runs but no play in the pre-lunch session spoiled their chances.
When the play finally began, Sri Lanka declared their second knock at 181-6, setting Pakistan a target of 255 in a possible of 61 overs.
Pakistan lost Mohammad Hafeez (13), Azhar Ali (seven), Younis Khan (11) and Taufiq Umar (39) and it was left to Misbah-ul Haq and Asad Shafiq to finish the day at 87-4.
Misbah defended his ploy to bat out for a draw.
“I think we were positive in the start and hoped we got a good start but we lost our openers quickly, so we had to change our plans. They bowled well and the ball was spinning,” said the Pakistan captain.
Misbah said there was a little disappointment for not winning the first Test.
“There is also a sense of disappointment on not to have won here 2-0 because of one bad fielding session in Abu Dhabi, spoiled that chance. Kumar Sangakkara played brilliantly and saved them,” said Misbah of the left-hander who was joint man-of-the-series with Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal.
Sangakkara, who made a match-saving 211 in Abu Dhabi, finished with 516 runs in six innings while Ajmal took 18 wickets.
By not winning 2-0, Pakistan remained sixth in Test rankings, and Sri Lanka a place better than them.
Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said: “It is a sad feeling to lose and we need to start the series well, we didn't do that in England, then against Australia at home and now against Pakistan.”
Since taking over captaincy in May this year, Dilshan has yet to win a Test and his team has gone 13 Tests without a victory since beating India at Galle in 2009.
Dilshan said his team couldn't score big in the first innings of the first two Tests.
“We didn't get starts that we wanted,” said Dilshan, whose team were bowled out for 197 and 239 in the first two matches.
“You saw the difference in this Test when we put on a 400 plus total. After losing the second Test the boys put up a good show in this game.”
Dilshan added that the rain had not helped proceedings.
“We were disappointed with the rain. Had we played a full day it could have been a different result. The rain took that away and that's disappointing,” said Dilshan.
Both teams now play the first of five one-day in Dubai on November 11. They also play a Twenty20 in Abu Dhabi on November 25.