Lankans dethrone Pak as Asian Test Champions

Published: Sunday, March 10, 2002, 19:58 [IST]
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Lahore: Sri Lanka dethroned Pakistan as Asian Test Champions on Sunday with an eight- wicket victory on the fifth day of the final at Gaddafi Stadium.

After bad weather halted its victory march on the fourth day, the second new ball did the trick for the visitors as it wrapped up Pakistan's second innings for 325 with experienced batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq dismissed on 99. That left it needing just 32 to win. Mahela Jayawardene hit pacer Shoaib Akhtar to the cover boundary to conclude an emphatic victory after Pakistan had claimed the wickets of openers Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya. Placed fourth on the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Test ratings, Sri Lanka recorded its ninth consecutive win and move to England in a month's time with its tails up. "Yes, it's a morale boosting win for us and would help us go to England with big hearts," Sri Lankan captain Jayasuriya said. "It's a team effort that helped us win this Test and we were never in doubt we would win this Test although one day was lost due to rain." "It was a complete team effort and I am delighted that we have won the Asian title." Pakistan's captain Waqar Younis paid tribute to the way Sri Lanka performed. "They (Sri Lankans) played better cricket and our first innings score of 234 cost us the match," Younis said. "Sri Lanka batted well and Kumar Sangakkara's double hundred took the match away from us and then Muralitharan bowled us out." Sri Lanka dominated the match right from the word go after winning the toss and dismissing Pakistan for 234 on the first day. Man-of-the match Kumar Sangakkara scored 230 to help Sri Lanka notch 528 in its first innings. A debatable decision by Australian umpire Daryl Harper brought Pakistan's downslide in the fourth over with the new ball as he adjudged the home team's last hope Inzamam-ul-Haq's leg before off Chaminda Vaas for 99. Inzamam, Pakistan's vice-captain, fought a lone battle for his team for 300 minutes and hit six fours and a six during his 228 balls stay at the crease. It was the sixth time that he had been dismissed in the nervous nineties in 80 Tests. Television replays clearly showed the ball hit Haq above the knee roll and Vaas had also overstepped the crease. Inzamam's departure heralded doom for Pakistan however as it lost Rashid Latif in Vaas's next over when Latif failed to keep down a drive and was caught at mid-off by Muralitharan for 2. Pakistan suffered its first defeat after winning six Tests in a row but its pathetic home record continued as it has lost six of its last 14 Tests on home grounds. Resuming at 248 for seven under bright sunshine, Pakistan saw off the first four overs without facing any problems as Inzamam hit Muralitharan for two fours and a six to race to 91. Jayasuriya took the second new ball with Pakistan 270 for five and was soon rewarded for the decision as Vaas claimed the wickets of Inzamam and Rashid Latif in successive overs. Nuwan Zoysa removed the stubborn Shoaib Mallik when he forced an edge to Kumar Sangakkara for 21 leaving Pakistan three runs short of averting innings defeat. Pakistan captain Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar ensured Sri Lanka would have to bat again. Waqar used his long handle effectively hitting four boundaries and a six in his 25 before he edged Muralitharan to Hashan Tillekeratne at silly point. Vaas returned to remove Mohammad Sami for nought to finish with four for 85 while Muralitharan took four for 72, taking his tally to 412 wickets in 73 Tests. The match marked the return of international cricket in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks. New Zealand had cancelled its series here because of security fears. Pakistan won the inaugural Asian Test Championship (ATC) by beating Sri Lanka in the final by an innings and 175 runs in Dhaka in 1998-99. India also participated in the first edition of the biennial championship but refused to join the second edition because of tensions with Pakistan.

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