From Sportstar Archives: Pakistan's 'gift' to Sri Lanka at India's expense

At a time when Pakistan finds its World Cup 2019 fortunes tied to India's performance and conspiracy theories are dime a dozen, here is looking at a game where Pakistan 'gifted' Sri Lanka points, which denied India a place in the final of the Asian Test Championship.

India skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first in an important World Cup Group match against Bangladesh.   -  BCCI

India-Pakistan cricket, cricketing debates and on special occasions, such as World Cup 2019, conspiracy theories are superabundant. Throw Bangladesh into the mix, and see the intensity swell.

As India and Bangladesh meet at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Tuesday, Pakistan fans, for the second game in a row, will be hoping Virat Kohli and Co. win because it helps their team's push for a semifinal berth. India could not beat England and that led to tongues wagging.

Incidentally, even before India lost to England, former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali insinuated that India will not want Pakistan to make the semifinal and may deliberately play poorly.

Such theories will not be new to cricket fans in the subcontinent. Here is an article by Rizwan Ehsan Ali, published in Sportstar's issue dated March 20, 1999, on a match when Wasim Akram's so-called "positive" approach allowed an understrength Sri Lanka to edge out India from the final of the Asian Test Championship.

Akram's 'gift' to the Lankans

Pakistan's 'gift' of seven points to Sri Lanka took the gloss off Wasim Akram's hat-trick and Wajahatullah Wasti's century in each innings during the drawn last league match of the Asian Test Championship at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

The point system designed for the inaugural event had a lot of loopholes. If one closely scans the Lahore Test, the limitations of the current system of awarding points will be exposed.

Had there been negative points for a team losing more than five wickets in the first innings before 100 overs, it could have checked Pakistan's unnecessary run-spree.

The Pakistani batsmen threw their wickets away on the second morning in order to grab the full four first innings batting points. However, the Sri Lankans too picked up four vital points as they claimed nine wickets before 100 overs.

READ: Waqar Younis questions Team India's sportsmanship after England loss

Later, Wasim Akram's so-called "positive" approach allowed an understrength Sri Lanka to edge out India from the final. By the time both teams went for Lunch on the third day, the islanders had scored the required 300 runs before 100 overs.

There is one school of thought which believes Pakistan had every right to pick their opponents in the final as they had already qualified prior to the last league match.

But then, it's not a matter of pick and choose, it's the spirit of the game which was ruined in Lahore.

On a flat wicket, where bowlers had little for them, Pakistan lost its last five wickets in the space of 12 overs and gave full bowling points to Sri Lanka.

Akram then 'rested' himself on the third morning with Sri Lanka still 111 runs away from the final, and with six wickets in hand.

READ: India makes it 7-0 against Pakistan with clinical win

The Sri Lankan century-makers Romesh Kaluwitharana and Russell Arnold butchered the young Pakistan seamers Shahid Nazir and Fazle Akbar and booked their team's place in the final.

"It's all because I have performed a hat-trick that everybody is criticising," said the then 32-year-old Akram, who polished off the tail with four wickets in space of eight deliveries after Lunch. It made little sense when Akram justified his decision not to bowl early on the third morning.

"I was giving myself rest because I have been bowling 25 to 30 overs in a day for the last two months," he said.

Weather too played its part as more than a session's play was lost on the first day after a sudden spell of heavy showers during the lunch interval.

In the absence of five key players, Sri Lankan seamer Pramodya Wickramasinghe gave stand-in captain Hashan Tillekeratne a dream start when he had the in-form Saeed Anwar bowled off the third ball.

Wasti, the 25-year-old opener from Peshawar, playing in his only second Test match, and the 17-year-old debutant Imran Nazir, put on a strokeful 105 runs for the second wicket.

READ: India did not play its best game, cries Pakistan’s cricket community

Sri Lanka had their chances but Kaluwitharana dropped an easy catch off Wasti when the batsman was on nine and Atapattu missed a sitter at short cover off Nazir's full-blooded drive.

Both batsmen capitalised on their chances as Nazir completed his half century before Lunch with eight fours and a six over mid-wicket off part-time seamer Chandika Hathurusinghe.

When players returned after Tea, Wickramasinghe had Nazir (64) caught after the batsman hooked straight to Sajeewa de Silva at deep fine leg. Newly-wed Inzamam-ul- Haq played a casual drive only to get a thin inside edge.

Yousuf Youhana and Wasti added 87 runs for the fourth wicket and took Pakistan to 192 for three by close.

Wasti and Youhana started the second day cautiously. Youhana completed his seventh Test half-century with a big six of left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandarathilake, while Wasti brought up his five-hour century with the help of 15 fours.

However, in an hour's play before lunch, Pakistan lost five wickets in 12 overs with Youhana (83) and Afridi (0) departing off Ruwan Kalpage's successive deliveries.

Youhana, who hit 11 fours and a six, during his 178-run fourth wicket partnership with Wasti, looked well set for his century before he gently drove the ball back to the off-spinner.

After Afridi was brilliantly caught by Avishka Gunawardene at silly point, Moin Khan made 57 off 53 balls which guided Pakistan past the 350-run mark before 100 overs. Wasti, after making 133 in nearly six-and-a-half hours, ran himself out while trying to take a needless single.

Hat-trick: Wasim Akram celebrates after cleaning up Pramodya Wickremasinghe on the third day of the Asian Test Championship.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Wickramasinghe returned with the second new ball and claimed another three wickets, Wasim Akram (4), Moin Khan (57) and Shahid Nazir (4), to finish Pakistan's innings at 398, and return with career-best figures of six for 103.

Cracking Start

Sri Lanka were off to a cracking start when their two left-handed openers Gunawardene and Russel Arnold, combined in a 84-run stand in one hour. Gunawardene, who hit seamer Fazle Akbar for four boundaries in an over and then hammered three more off medium fast bowler Shahid Nazir, made a run-a-ball 43.

Akbar had his revenge when he had Gunawardene caught in the deep in his second spell. Mahela Jayawardene, with a double century against India at Colombo to his credit, lasted for only 11 deliveries before he failed to judge Saqlain Mushtaq's straight delivery and was bowled for four.

Saqlain then had two more wickets, Tillekeratne (9) and Atapattu (23), before Kaluwitharana and Arnold kept the Lankan hopes alive and took their team's total to 189 for four. Arnold batted resolutely for his unbeaten 81.

Kaluwitharana and Arnold went on a run-spree as Sri Lanka achieved the required three batting points before lunch.

Arnold, who hit a dozen boundaries in his 123-run innings in 310 minutes, was bowled round his legs by Saqlain with Sri Lanka just a run away from the 300-mark.

Kaluwitharana was more aggressive of the two in the 143-run partnership, and took Sri Lanka past the 300-mark with a boundary off Shahid Afridi to square leg.

Akram returned after Lunch and became the first Asian to record a hat-trick in Test cricket. Bowling his second over of the day, Akram found the edge off Kaluwitharana's bat, uprooted Bandarathilake's leg stump, and then knocked back Wickremasinghe's off stump.

"I knew I could do it when Wickremasinghe walked in," Akram said. "I bowled Wickremasinghe straight and fast and beat him with pace," he added.

Though Sajeewa survived the fourth delivery and scored two boundaries through slips, Akram had him bowled in the next over to finish the Lankan innings at 328 and return with figures of 4-30.

Pathetic Sri Lankan catching gave Pakistani opener Shahid Afridi four lives as the home team enhanced its lead to 219 at the end of the third day's play.

Afridi, dropped on 8, 18, 36 and 65, raced to 81 with 11 fours and a six, while Wasti followed his first innings century with a patient, unbeaten century.

Wash's successive century (121 not out) bracketed him with two great Pakistan Test players, Hanif Mohammad and Javed Miandad, as Pakistan declared their second innings at 314 for eight shortly after tea and set up a 385-run victory target for Sri Lanka.

However, nearly a session's play was lost due to bad light and rain on the fifth morning, killing Pakistan's hopes of declaring early.

Sajeewa de Silva (2-90), Kalpage (2-92) and Bandarathilake (2-54) were among the wickets before Akram made a declaration an hour before close.

Arnold and Gunawardene once again made a solid start and took Sri Lanka to 60 without loss before bad light once again brought a premature end to the day's play.

Heavy morning rains, which left the bowler's run-up and the square completely soaked on the last morning, denied play before lunch and dampened Pakistan captain Wasim Akram's hopes of enforcing a result.

Sri Lanka finished at 165 for two before the umpires called off the match 16 minutes after Tea with thick clouds hovering over the Gaddafi Stadium.

Arnold remained unbeaten on a fine 56 while Jayawardena made a classy 50.