Herath v Azhar Ali: Seven innings, seven dismissals

Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 4th day October 01, 2017

Herath v Pakistan, Herath v Azhar Ali

Rangana Herath is playing his 20th Test against Pakistan and he has numbers to show them. He has taken 95 wickets against them and needs five more to go past Kapil Dev to become the highest wicket-taker against Pakistan in Tests. When it comes to the number of five-wicket hauls against them, though, he is already at the top. The five-for he took in Pakistan's first innings was his seventh against the team. These equal the most such hauls taken by any left-arm spinner against an opposition. England's Johnny Briggs had also taken seven five-fors against Australia, although he played 31 matches - to Herath's 20 - against them. Herath has six such hauls against Australia too in 11 matches.

Left-arm spinners: most five-fors against an opposition, Tests
Bowler Opposition Mat Wkts 5wi
 Johnny Briggs  Australia  31  97  7
 Rangana Herath  Pakistan  20  95  7
 Colin Blythe  South Africa  10  59  6
 Rangana Herath  Australia  11  66  6
 Wilfred Rhodes  Australia  41  109  6
 Derek Underwood  New Zealand  8  48  6
 Danie Vettori  Australia  19  66  6

Herath hasn't been always at his best against Pakistan though. In his first 15 Tests against them, he had 65 wickets at an average of 32.81 and had taken three five-wicket hauls. In five Tests since then (and one potential bowling innings still to go in the fifth) he has taken 30 wickets at an average of 21.96. He has taken four five-fors and one ten-wicket haul in these five matches.

Rangana Herath v Pakistan, Tests
Wkts Ave SR 5wi/10wm
 First 15 Tests  65  32.81  73.8  3/0
 Last 5 Tests  30  21.96  46.4  4/1

One of his five wickets in Pakistan's first innings was of Azhar Ali's: his favourite batsman to dismiss of late. Herath has dismissed Azhar in each of the seven innings in his last five Tests against Pakistan. Admittedly though, six of those dismissals had come from far more helpful conditions at home. Azhar has managed an average of just 11 runs per dismissal against the bowler and has managed just four boundaries in 248 balls. The numbers were skewed in favour of the batsman before that. In ten innings in which Azhar faced Herath earlier, he had made 169 runs against him and had been dismissed only two times in 504 deliveries.

A stand against the run of play

Sri Lanka seemed to make some headway in the morning session when four Pakistan wickets fell for 74 runs. At lunch, Pakistan were still 80 runs away from taking a lead with only two wickets left. At that point, Sri Lanka had their nose ahead in what was until then a race between tortoises and were looking at a handy lead. Then came the stand that, perhaps, changed the course of this Test: 50 runs added for Pakistan's ninth wicket gave this Test the direction that over 750 runs scored in the match previously couldn't give. That stand between Haris Sohail - who became the first Pakistan debutant to get a fifty batting at No. 6 or lower since Asad Shafiq - and Hasan Ali came off just eight overs at a scoring rate of 6.25. Had the stand continued to make runs at the going rate of scoring, it would have eaten into 11 more overs of the match. Time saved could come handy in giving this Test a decisive result. But given that a wicket has fallen every 37 balls on the fifth day of the previous two Tests in Abu Dhabi, the time saved might perhaps not be needed.

Pakistan 9th-wicket stand, 1st innings
Runs RR 4s/6s Balls per boundary
 Pakistan's 9th-wicket stand  50  6.25  4/4  6.0
 Match before that stand  759  2.57  59/3  28.5

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