The first Test in Pakistan in over ten years hosted by Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium last week was a dull affair as only 167 overs of play was possible because of rain and bad light but there were some exciting records made during the match. We take a look at some exciting talking points from the game between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
32-year-old opener Abid Ali made history in Rawalpindi with an unbeaten 109 against Sri Lanka. He became the first man in cricket to score centuries on both Test and ODI debuts. Earlier this year, he started his ODI career with a century against Australia in Dubai. While no man had achieved this feat before, Enid Bakewell, a woman cricketer from England, had done it in 1973. Abid had been in reckoning to play Tests since last year but only got a chance in Rawalpindi. He was also part of Pakistan’s squad that toured Australia for two Tests last month.
Abid also became only the sixth player from Pakistan to earn the man-of-the-match award on his Test debut and the first since Fawad Alam in 2009. Akin to Abid, Fawad also scored a hundred on debut as an opening batsman against Sri Lanka at Colombo (PSS). The other four Pakistan players to accomplish this feat on debut are: Mohammad Zahid for a ten-wicket haul against New Zealand in Rawalpindi in 1996, Azhar Mahmood for a century against South Africa in Rawalpindi in 1997, Mohammad Sami for a five-wicket haul against New Zealand in Auckland in 2001 and Yasir Hameed for twin centuries against Bangladesh in Karachi in 2003.
The Pindi Cricket Stadium has been a host to many great performances on debut. Apart from the aforementioned centuries by Abid, Azhar and Zahid, Younis Khan, the leading run-getter in Pakistan’s Test history, also started his career at this ground with a century against Sri Lanka. Opening batsman Ali Naqvi knocked a hundred on Test debut against South Africa in 1997. Australian fast bowler Damien Fleming took a hat-trick on Test debut at this ground against Pakistan in 1994.
Dhananjaya de Silva scored his sixth Test century and first against Pakistan. Of the 11 times he has reached 50 in Tests, he has converted it into a century on six occasions. With six centuries and five fifties under his belt, he has the best (1.2) fifties to hundred conversion-rate for any Sri Lankan batsman with at least five centuries in Tests. The next best is Marvan Atapattu (0.94) with 16 centuries and 17 half-centuries followed by Aravinda de Silva's (0.91) 20 centuries and 22 fifties.
Dhananjaya de Silva soaks in the applause after reaching his century ©Associated Press
Because of rain and bad light, only 167 overs were possible in the match in Rawalpindi making it the third shortest Test on Pakistan soil. A Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Gujranwala in 1991 witnessed only 36 overs, which is the shortest Test in Pakistan followed by 132.3 overs in a match between Pakistan and South Africa in Sheikhupura in 1997. Only 68.1 overs were bowled on the opening day of the match in Rawalpindi followed by 18.2 overs on day two and 5.2 overs on day three. There was no play on the fourth day. Last time a complete day was lost in a Test in Pakistan was because of fog in Lahore in 1998 with Zimbabwe being the touring side. The fifth day in Rawalpindi had 75.1 overs which allowed enough time for de Silva, Abid and Babar Azam to score centuries.
December is not the best time to play Tests in Pakistan especially in the central and northern parts of the country because of rain, fog and short days. Of the 15 Tests played in December in Pakistan outside of Karachi, only two – Pak vs WI in 1980 and Pak vs Zim in 1993 – have produced results. The last time Pakistan hosted a Test in December was in Karachi in 2000 when England won in fading light whereas the last time a Test was organized in Pakistan outside Karachi was in Faisalabad in 1998 when all five days were fogged out. The ongoing Test series was originally scheduled to be played in October but, to win Sri Lanka’s trust regarding the security situation, Pakistan first hosted ODIs and T20Is and postponed the Test series to December.
Murky weather disrupts proceedings in Rawalpindi ©Associated Press
Pakistan's bowlers didn’t get much overs to showcase their talent but for the first time in 24 years they had a bowling attack comprising of four fast bowlers – Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and the debutant Usman Shinwari – at home. Pakistan left out Yasir Shah due to conditions slanted in favour of seamers. Last time Pakistan played a home Test without a specialist spinner was way back in 1995 when the team led by Ramiz Raja picked Aaqib Javed, Mohammad Akram, Aamer Nazir and Ata-ur-Rehman in the third Test against Sri Lanka in Sialkot.
Pakistan had come into the match on the back of six consecutive defeats in Tests at the hands of South Africa (3), Australia (2) and New Zealand (1). It was their joint-worst losing streak ever after having lost six in a row to West Indies (1), New Zealand (2) and Australia (3) in 2016-17. Although the Rawalpindi Test witnessed only 167 overs, it helped Pakistan end their losing streak.