A collapse of Pakistani proportions led to a complete U-turn in the fate of the incredible Galle Test, the match eventually decisively going Sri Lanka's way. Pakistan started the day needing 97 with eight wickets in hand, and Salman Butt and first-innings centurion Mohammad Yousuf resuming after comfortably negotiating the last half hour yesterday. But Thilan Thushara and Rangana Herath bowled exceptional spells of varied left-arm bowling to help Sri Lanka take the last eight wickets for just 46.
Pakistan's trouble against left-arm spinners are well documented - Herath's previous best bowling in Tests had also come against Pakistan - and he started the slide with his first ball of the day. Yousuf pretended to play a shot but the ball went straight on to get the lbw. A brain freeze followed from Butt, who holed out to long leg. No run added, two wickets taken, game on.
Though he got just two wickets today, Thushara's was the main job. Not a single loose delivery was offered in an eight-over spell during which he beat the batsmen so often that a ball hitting the middle of the bat could make it to a highlights package. He got the ball to move both ways, seaming it away and swinging it in. Kumar Sangakkara read the situation perfectly, employing in-and-out fields, not giving easy release through boundaries or singles without an element of maneuvering. With Thushara bowling as he was, maneuvering was not going to come easy.
Thushara got Shoaib Malik with one that moved away, bringing in the last capable batsman, Kamran Akmal. Akmal is quite capable of running away with small chases with fluent doubt-free batting, but nothing loose was on offer. Even when Akmal managed a square-cut the result was just a single because of the field. Nervously Misbah-ul-Haq and Akmal survived 21 deliveries, adding just eight, that too thanks to a misfield that went for four.
Thushara struck again at that time, getting the ball to tail in and trap Akmal lbw. Misbah didn't feel too comfortable either and fell trying to steal a leg-bye off a big lbw appeal. It was the fifth ball of the Thushara over, and he could have been trying to retain the strike, but there was never a run in it.
By the time Thushara and Herath were done with their first spells, Pakistan had lost five wickets for 20 runs in 15 overs. There was no conceivable way then for the tail to get the remaining 77. Especially with Ajantha Mendis yet to bowl, who ended with his first ball a 10-run stand between Abdur Rauf and Umar Gul. The accurate carrom ball was just too good for Gul.
Mohammad Aamer hung around for a bit but Herath came back to finish the match minutes before lunch, ensuring Galle's reputation of being a tough venue to bat last at remained intact.