SL vs PAK 1st Test: Imam-ul-Haq’s fifty guides Pakistan to victory in tricky chase 

Toby Marshall
23 July 2023

In an enthralling first Test, Pakistan emerged victorious, defeating Sri Lanka by four wickets and taking a 1-0 lead in the two-match series. The match witnessed several twists and turns, with Saud Shakeel’s unbeaten 208 in Pakistan’s first innings making the crucial difference between the two teams. Dhananjaya de Silva was the standout performer for Sri Lanka, putting up two brilliant knocks to keep his team in the game.

During Sri Lanka’s first innings in Galle, De Silva and Angelo Mathews rescued the hosts from a top-order collapse, guiding them to a total of 312. Pakistan responded strongly, posting 461, with Shakeel and Agha Salman leading the way with impressive performances. In their second innings, Sri Lanka managed 279, with De Silva continuing his fine form.

Chasing a target of 131 runs, Pakistan was guided by Imam-ul-Haq’s half-century, helping them successfully chase down the total and secure a well-deserved victory in the captivating Test match.

Pakistan wasted little time in wrapping up the victory, needing just over an hour to chase down the remaining 83 runs. It was an uncharacteristically smooth performance from Pakistan, showing little drama or fuss in their pursuit of the target. Although they lost three wickets along the way, it was evident from the very first ball, which was pulled for four, that they would ultimately reach their goal without much difficulty.

This win gives Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the two-match series against Sri Lanka and marks an ideal start for them in the new World Test Championship cycle. Additionally, it is their first Test victory in exactly a year, with their last triumph also taking place in Galle.

The winning moment arrived when Imam-ul-Haq, unbeaten on 50, lofted a delivery over long-off for a sumptuous six, with Agha Salman by his side. Despite Prabath Jayasuriya’s impressive figures of 4 for 56, adding to his growing collection of wickets at Galle, it offered little consolation for the disappointed hosts.

On the final day, Pakistan wasted no time and quickly got the required 82 runs. Babar set the tone by pulling the first ball of the day, a half-tracker by Ramesh Mendis, for a boundary. He followed it up with another boundary through the fine leg region just three balls later.

While Imam approached cautiously at the beginning, Babar took an offensive stance against Mendis and Prabath Jayasuriya. Unfortunately, Babar’s innings was cut short by Jayasuriya, who breached his defense with an arm-ball, trapping him leg before wicket.

Despite the significant setback, Pakistan did not revert to a defensive approach. In the very next over, Imam confidently stepped out and launched Mendis for a six over long-off. A few overs later, he repeated the aggressive move against Jayasuriya, smashing a boundary to cut loose.

However, Imam’s breezy knock of 30 came to an end when Samarawickrama took a good catch at short leg. Shakeel’s attempted defensive prod against Mendis resulted in an inside edge, leading to his dismissal.

As Sri Lanka saw defeat looming, they managed to strike once more. Sarfraz’s attempted sweep shot ended up in the hands of Kusal Mendis. Agha Salman, however, sealed the run chase by stepping out against Jayasuriya and powerfully hitting a six down the ground.

Author Toby Marshall