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December 24, 2019

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Pakistan savors emotional series win

A 1-0 victory over Sri Lanka was the icing on the cake as an emotional Pakistan team yesterday savored its first test series on home soil for a decade.

Pakistan has been starved of test cricket since the 2009 militant attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore with top teams refusing to travel to the country due to safety concerns.

It took considerable effort, and the promise of watertight security, to convince Sri Lanka to play test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

“Special thanks to the Sri Lankan team... They probably don’t know how much happiness they have given us by playing here,” Pakistan captain Azhar Ali said after the series-clinching victory in the Karachi test.

“It’s been a tough year for us as a test team but coming here, playing at home and playing after a long time, it’s been obviously an emotional moment for us.”

After a decade as test nomads, Pakistan was unsure how to exploit its home advantage. “We had some doubts, how to win a test here as we haven’t played test matches here for a long time,” said Azhar.

“Now we have a decent idea how to win test match in Pakistan ... once we do well at home, we can take the confidence abroad.”

Bowling coach Waqar Younis was elated with the victory but felt hosting the series mattered more.

“It’s a very happy moment for the team and for all of us, for the entire country,” the former pace great told Sony Pictures Network. “It’s good that we won but more than that it’s that cricket has come back home.

“People love cricket ... it’s good that they have come in numbers and they’ve shown the world that this is a safe place.”

Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne gave a thumbs-up to the safety and logistical arrangements.

“Thanks to the Pakistan Cricket Board, the way they gave us security, it was really outstanding. We’re trying to come back here again,” he said.

Despite the successful series against Sri Lanka, teams still appear wary of touring Pakistan.

The Pakistan board is in negotiation with Bangladesh which is ready to play three Twenty20 Internationals in Lahore next month but wants neutral venues for the two-test series which follows.

The series victory yesterday owed much to teenager Naseem Shah, who bowled the hosts to a 263-run win in the second test in Karachi.

Pakistan needed only 16 deliveries to claim the last three wickets and Naseem grabbed two of them to signal his arrival as Pakistan’s next pace prospect.

Chasing an improbable 476 for victory, Sri Lanka folded for 212, its last four batsmen perishing without adding a single run to the total.

The 16-year-old Naseem became the youngest fast bowler to take a five-wicket haul in test cricket history to end with 5 for 31 from 12.5 overs.


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