Pakistan had lost three Test series in a row in Sri Lanka between 2009 and 2014, and the three-match series of 2015 was deemed to Test the side’s potential with the world-class cricketers in Kumar Sangakkara and Rangana Herath still in the opposition’s ranks.
In three weeks’ time, Pakistan recorded an epic 2-1 win on the back of a young leg-spinner who before traveling to the island nation had played only seven Tests.
Yasir Shah made his presence felt from the very first Test at Galle when he recorded a second innings seven for 76, helping his side to a resounding 10-wicket win.
In the next Test at Colombo’s P. Sara Oval, Yasir returned a six-fer in the first innings before the hosts levelled the series. On a personal note, however, it was a special game for him as he surpassed his coach, Waqar Younis, to become quickest Pakistan bowler to take 50 Test wickets.
In the all-important Pallekele Test, Yasir again recorded a five-fer, sparking an epic collapse that saw Sri Lanka getting all out on 278 after the hosts slipped from one for 106 to four for 137.
His exceptional run on the Lankan shores earned him the player of the series award for snaring 24 wickets – 10 clear of the next best, Dhammika Prasad. He would also complete his 50 Test wickets in just nine matches on the tour.
Since marking his international debut in 2014, Yasir has been every Pakistan captain’s go-to bowler. His utility is underscored by his extraordinary record of being the quickest, in terms of matches (33), to 200 Test wickets in the history of the game.
Yasir last turned out for Pakistan in August 2021 in the West Indies and after recovering from a thumb injury and leading Balochistan to their first-ever Pakistan Cup title earlier in the year, he was training at P. Sara Oval, where he reached the 50 Test-wicket landmark in 2015, yesterday.
As it is the case with leg-spinners, Pakistan captain Babar Azam, like all Test captains, would be relying on Yasir to provide him breakthroughs on crucial moments. And, Yasir is ready for the challenge.
Speaking to PCB Digital at the conclusion of Pakistan’s first training session in Sri Lanka, Yasir said, “It is tough being a leg-spinner because getting into rhythm can take time. I had to take a break from international cricket because of a thumb fracture. I played in Pakistan Cup and did a month-long camp at the National High Performance Centre. It helped me in regaining the rhythm required to thrive in international cricket and I could sense it when I was bowling in the nets.”
On what is Pakistan’s first tour of the country since the one in 2015, Yasir’s return to the Pakistan camp will definitely worry the hosts.
“I have some very fond memories of Sri Lanka and this venue as I completed my 50 Test wickets here,” Yasir said.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka face-off in two ICC World Test Championship fixtures in Galle (16-20 July) and Colombo (24-28 July).