Karachi: Teenager Naseem Shah became the youngest fast bowler to take a five-wicket haul in Test cricket history as Pakistan completed a winning comeback to Tests on home soil with a 1-0 series victory over Sri Lanka on Monday.
The 16-year-old quick took two of the last three wickets to fall in the final day's 15 minutes of play to end with 5-31 from 12.5 overs as Pakistan sealed a comprehensive 263-run win to complete the two-Test series, the first played in Pakistan since a terrorist attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.
At 16 years and 311 days, Naseem very nearly beat the all-time mark for the youngest player to claim a five-wicket haul. Fellow Pakistani Nasim-ul-Ghani, a left-arm spinner, was 16 years and 303 days when he claimed the honour against the West Indies in 1958.
Naseem's effort punctuated a welcome winning return for the home side. In the past 10 years, Pakistan has played its 33 home Test matches at offshore venues, primarily in the United Arab Emirates, after the country was deemed too unsafe by international cricket authorities.
The fifth day of the second and last Test resumed with Sri Lanka reeling at 212-7 chasing a daunting victory target of 476. It took less than three full overs for Pakistan to wrap up the visitors.
Having dismissed Dilruwan Perera with the last ball bowled on Sunday, Naseem removed Lasith Embuldeniya for a golden duck with Monday's first ball, the tail-ender gloving a sharp rising delivery to the keeper.
While Naseem missed his hat-trick, century-maker Oshada Fernando fell in the next over, nicking a catch to first slip off leg-spinner Yasir Shah without having added to his overnight score of 102.
Naseem, playing in only his third Test, trapped Vishwa Fernando lbw for a duck in the following over to wrap up the match.
“We definitely needed that performance," said Pakistan's Azhar Ali, celebrating his first Test win as captain.
"Special thanks to Sri Lanka from the bottom of our hearts. They have given us immense happiness by playing in Pakistan.
"It’s a big advantage to be playing at home and now we can take the confidence from our performances from here and take them overseas when we travel.”
“It had been a tough year in Test cricket for us but it was an emotional moment returning home to play. So much talent in these youngsters, experience will come with time, they are the best bowlers in Pakistan and we should back them.”
After the drawn first Test in Rawalpindi, Pakistan won the toss here but fell cheaply in the first innings for 191, after which Sri Lanka took an 80-run first innings lead.
Pakistan returned with a phenomenal second innings of 555-3, with all of its top four batsmen making centuries, setting Sri Lanka a virtually impossible target.
“This is of course a very emotional and happy moment for us,” said Pakistan pace legend, and now its bowling coach, Waqar Younis.
“We might have been playing at UAE ... as home away from home, but home is home after all. Playing in front of your home people is alway something special. It's heartening to see how people turned up to cheer us.
"They have shown their love for cricket and shown the world that this is the safe place and let's play more cricket here.”
International cricket in Pakistan came to a halt after the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by terrorists on the way to Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in 2009. Six policemen and a driver escorting match officials were killed. No Sri Lankan players or officials died.
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