The Riveting Finish at Galle

Sunday August 10th, 2013, was a day of resurgence, a day of destiny and a day of hope. 20 million Sri Lankans witnessed the perfect day in Sri Lankan test history unfold in a cracking encounter. Pakistan’s chase was rocked early in the innings when Manzoor nicked Rangana Hereth behind. Pakistan’s batsmen bereft of application had no answers to Hereth and even more glaring was the struggle against Dilruwan Perera. Ajmal scratched around for 10 balls before Prasad entered the fray to cause the middle order to stumble. But, Shehzad and Ali showed good application to keep the diligent Sri Lankan bowlers at bay and remained sedate for 93 deliveries fetching merely 28 runs. Despite exhibiting vast reserves of concentration, Shehzad’s vigil came to an end when Perera trapped him as the ball pinned on the pads in front of the leg-stump. As the afternoon wore on, Hereth wrapped up a good session for Sri Lanka by getting rid of the first innings centurion Younis Khan to an armball that slipped through the gates and cleared the stumps.

Misbah combined well with Ali to steady the ship from the jitters of that morning with a timely partnership of 56. As Pakistanis looked ready for a blackthorn to salvage a draw Sri Lanka struck twice in the space of three balls to give their supporters another glimmer of hope. Hereth ended Azhar Ali’s stubborn knock of 41 off 151 balls with a lovely piece of bowling; two deliveries later, Misbah was trapped lbw off the back-foot. Despite two quick wickets, Sarfaz fought with aggression and added another half century to his name, in an attempt to steer the tourist to safety with imminent bad light and rain. As overs remaining kept dwindling, Sarfaz kept fighting with just three wickets left in the bank to take Pakistan past the 100 mark. From then on it was just a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Eranga had Rehman caught behind by Dickwella for one just at the stoke of tea and Hereth had his way with the tail enders to finish with incredible figures of 6-48

Burdened with an enormous task at hand, Hereth captured a 6fer to change the game that was petering towards a draw as Sri Lanka began their quest for a dramatic win under the constant menace of rain and fading light. There was an enormous buzz around the stadium as the veteran Mahela Jayawardene opened the batting for Sri Lanka for the first time in his career. With the proceeding going in Sri Lanka’s favor, Galle filled up and the crowd was in full voice. As the dark clouds hovered over Galle, Khan stuck Mahela with a mighty full Yorker that ramped the middle stump and Galle was hushed into silence. Looking for quick runs Sanga holed out straight down the throat of Manzoor at long on leaving plenty of glum faces in the stands. With the equation at 24 needed from 36, Mathews launched one high and over mid-wicket for a six off Junaid Khan’s bowling, 4 deliveries later Vithanage blustered another maximum to send fresh waves of energy through the stands. With a single needed for a famous victory, skipper tapped Khan to midwicket for a nearly suicidal winning single and the heavens opened up. As the torrential downpour kicked of the celebration, papare bands played to jostling crowd at Galle and fire crackers resonated to the occasion, Mathews punched the air in utter delight and Sanga and Mahela jumped out of their seats in resounding glee.

Was it destiny? Was it determination? Was it the ambition to give Mahela the perfect farewell that saw us through? It’s hard to tell. Whatever it maybe, it was a thrilling finish amid near pitch darkness and looming downpour. With 20 million Sri Lankans across the world on their knees and a captain who admitted he was praying, the rain clouds that hung over the ground held it all in until Mathews rushed across the crease for the winning single. Ramiz Raja himself admitted that, nature too didn’t want to spoil the show for Mathews and his band of gutsy guys. The victory was a vindication not only of the courageous decision to declare on 533 in the first innings, it was also a vindication of team ethic.

Sri Lanka has taken test matches to the wire 5 times alone this year and have made last minute finishes there ‘thing”. We may no longer have Vaas or Murali to lead us through those nervous waters, but our confidence now relies on our audacious skipper and the magic in Rangayyiya.

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