Rejoicing Pakistan's super successful tour to Sri Lanka
The last time Pakistan won the Test, ODI, and T20I series on the same tour was during the 2011-12 season when they defeated Sri Lanka in the UAE, and then Zimbabwe and Bangladesh on tour. It took four years for Pakistan to repeat the feat and notch up a rare successful tour of Sri Lanka, after 9 years, winning a total of 7 international games - 2 Tests, 3 ODIs, and 2 T20Is.
Another rare achievement for Pakistan was winning the three bilateral series under different captains. They are not accustomed to having different captains for different formats, yet it seemed to be no hindrance to team spirit as Misbah, Azhar Ali, and Afridi led Pakistan's outfits to historical wins across the three formats in Sri Lanka.
One more interesting fact from this tour is that they sealed each series with a SIX! Misbah launched Jehan Mubarak over long on to complete his side's record chase in the 3rd Test; Shoaib Malik hoicked Sriwardana over midwicket in the 4th ODI to take Pakistan to an unassailable 3-1 lead in the ODI series; Imad Wasim smashed Binura Fernando over long on to complete Pakistan's dramatic 1 wicket win in the second T20I.
I wonder if that has ever happened before.
I also wonder when was the last time that Pakistan's batting, bowling, and fielding all fired collectively in a series. Probably not since the 1992 World Cup Final!
Before taking a look at their batting and bowling, their fielding deserves a mention.
The way the Pakistanis picked up their fielding on this tour was a revelation. Never before has Pakistan looked like the better fielding unit in any series. Runs were defended and catches were taken, with some so good that it was hard to believe that it was a Pakistani fielder athletically diving across the turf and getting his hands wrapped around the ball.
It was a sight!
Anwar Ali and Mohammad Rizwan have shown that they right up there with the best fielders in the world at the moment.
The batting on this tour also shone like it hasn't in the recent past.
There was the record chase in the 3rd Test; a 300+ total in the 3rd ODI; successful chases of 250+ in the 1st and 4th ODIs; a 175 run total in the 1st T20I; and a record chase of a 170+ target in the 2nd T20I.
While there was a classic match winning innings from the experienced Younis Khan in the 3rd Test, there was also a maiden century in a match winning cause from a novice like Shan Masood. Azhar Ali strengthened his Test credentials with yet another Test hundred, there were monumental knocks by Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed that won Pakistan a match after a familiar batting collapse.
ODI openers, Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad, fired more often than not; and when they didn't, the middle order comprising Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, and Mohammad Rizwan cruised the ship comfortably.
Anwar Ali finally came of age and showed that he has the abilities to become an allrounder in both ODIs and the T20s. Shoaib Malik ensured that his comeback was not a flash in the pan and made his presence count in the middle order in every innings in the ODIs and T20s. Umar Akmal also repaid the faith his T20 captain had in him by showing the world his range of shots and ability in the 1st T20I. Imad Wasim was impressive as well in his short stint.
And then there was Shahid Afridi, doubted by so many, who led the charge in the second T20 and showed the world that he still has it in him to smash the ball to all parts of the park.
While Yasir Shah single-handedly destroyed Sri Lanka in the Tests and mesmerized viewers by bringing back the shining art of leg spin to Pakistan's Test ranks after half a decade, Imran Khan and Rahat Ali also produced some awe-inspiring spells.
Rahat Ali translated his test success to ODIs by displaying wicket taking ability, while Anwar Ali produced economical spells with the new ball and also picked up wickets, which he was failing to do in the past. Imad Wasim showed composure with his left arm spin and was the most difficult bowler to get away.
Both Anwar and Imad are valuable additions to Pakistan's limited overs attack, particularly because of their ability to strengthen the lower order batting. Rarely does a tour end with Pakistan achieving all the goals it set out to achieve.
Misbah wanted a Test series win in Sri Lanka to take Pakistan back to number 3. Azhar wanted an ODI series win to ensure Pakistan a place in the Champions Trophy. He also stated that Pakistan would sweep Sri Lanka 2-0 in the T20s with Afridi wanting a strong showing leading up to his swansong in India next year.
There is much to rejoice about Pakistan's performance on this tour to Sri Lanka. It has been one of their most successful outings in recent history. Their Test and T20 performances resulted in a rise in the rankings where Pakistan now sit pretty at number 3 in both formats, while their ODI performance ensured a place in the Champions Trophy.