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Herath, the marathon man

In a Test match where the first innings of both sides were yet to be completed well into the fourth day, two dramatic collapses from either team in the last five sessions ensured the Abu Dhabi Test had a memorable finish. In their first Test post the Younis – Misbah era, Pakistan were all set for a splendid win before they crossed paths with old nemesis Rangana Herath. Chasing a target of 136 to win, the home side were bundled out for 114 with Herath running amok with his 33rd five-fer in Tests (6 for 43).

In the process, he became the 14th player and the second left-arm bowler to reach the milestone of 400 wickets after Wasim Akram (414 wickets from 104 Tests). He is the second Sri Lankan to the milestone after Muttiah Muralitharan who reached there in just 72 Tests – fastest among the 14. The only others to reach the milestone faster than Herath are Richard Hadlee and Dale Steyn, both of whom took 80 matches each. At 39 years and 197 days, Herath is also the oldest to reach the landmark, beating Hadlee who was 38 years and 216 days old when he got No.400.

Fewest Tests to 400 wickets

Player Team Tests Balls bowled Days from debut Age
M Muralitharan SL 72 24061 3428 29y 273d
R Hadlee NZ 80 20453 6212 38y 216d
Dale Steyn SA 80 16716 3878 32y 33d
R Herath SL 84 23836 6586 39y 197d
A Kumble Ind 85 26885 5173 33y 355d

101 of Herath’s 400 Test wickets are against Pakistan. He became the first bowler to take a century of Test wickets against them, going past the previous tally of 99 wickets by Kapil Dev (in nine more matches). These 101 wickets include his best innings figures of 9 for 127 and best match figures of 14 for 184 at the Colombo (SSC) in 2014.

Most wickets in Tests against Pakistan

Player Mat Balls Wkts Best Avg SR 5-fers/ 10-fers
R Herath 20 6319 101 9/127 28.06 62.5 8/2
Kapil Dev 29 5944 99 8/85 30.12 60.0 7/1
S Warne 15 4051 90 7/23 20.17 45.0 6/2
A Kumble 15 4886 81 10/74 31.97 60.3 5/2
G McGrath 17 3835 80 8/24 21.70 47.9 3/0
M Muralitharan 16 4697 80 6/71 25.46 58.7 5/1

The final wicket of Pakistan’s innings was Herath’s 100th in fourth innings of Test matches. He averages 18.38 in the fourth innings, which is the fourth-most among bowlers with at least 50 fourth-innings wickets. He is only the fourth bowler to take 100 wickets in the last innings behind Shane Warne (138), Muralitharan (106) and Glenn McGrath (103).

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For someone who had to live in the shadows of Muralitharan during his prime years, it is remarkable that the purple patch of his career came at a time when most bowlers contemplate hanging their boots. His 11 scalps in the Abu Dhabi Test moved his post-35 wicket tally to 200 – the first player to do so. He went past Clarrie Grimmett, who after making his debut at 34, took 192 wickets from just 33 Tests after turning 35. This was also Herath’s sixth Man of the Match performance since turning 35, the joint-most for a player alongside Graham Gooch in 52 matches.

Most wickets after turning 35

Player Team Tests Wkts Avg SR 5-fers/ 10-fers
R Herath SL 37 200 26.12 55.2 17/6
C Grimmett Aus 33 192 24.66 68.22 18/6
S Warne Aus 33 181 25.25 50.91 10/2
C Walsh WI 39 180 21.61 56.49 9/1
A Kumble Ind 35 154 33.47 66.18 6/1

Other numbers from Sri Lanka’s win

136 The lowest fourth-innings target successfully defended by Sri Lanka in Tests. The previous lowest was also against Pakistan – 168 in Galle in 2009. Incidentally, that was the Test match when Hearth made a return to the side and eventually cemented his spot. 136 is also the lowest target Pakistan failed to chase down in the fourth innings of a Test, the previous lowest being 146 against South Africa in Faisalabad in 1997.

Smallest targets defended successfully since 2000

Team Against Target Winning Margin Venue Start Date
WI Zim 99 35 Port of Spain 16-Mar-00
Ind Aus 107 13 Mumbai 3-Nov-04
SL Pak 136 21 Abu Dhabi 28-Sep-17
Pak Eng 145 72 Abu Dhabi 25-Jan-12
SL Pak 168 50 Galle 4-Jul-09
Aus Pak 176 35 Sydney 3-Jan-10
SL Ind 176 63 Galle 12-Aug-15

21 The lowest margin of win (in terms of runs) for Sri Lanka in Tests, also the smallest margin of defeat for Pakistan. Before Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka’s lowest margin of victory (by runs) also came against Pakistan by 42 runs in Faisalabad in 1995. Pakistan previous narrowest defeat was at the hands of Zimbabwe in Harare in 2013, when they lost by 24 runs.

1 This was Pakistan’s first loss in ten Tests in Abu Dhabi. They had won five and drew four from the nine previous matches here. They had played more Tests before losing their first at only one other venue – The National Stadium in Karachi. It took them 45 years and 35 Tests before their first loss there, against England in 2000.

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