ABU DHABI: Pakistan lost the first Test match by a mere 21 runs during the last session of the fifth and final day in a fluctuating game on a turning pitch of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Monday.
Chasing 136, a target looking easy but getting more and more difficult on a weary pitch, Pakistani batsmen could not resist against the bowling from left arm spinner Rangana Herath and were bowled out for 114.
Herath captured six wickets for 43 runs — 11 for 136 in the match — to steer Sri Lanka to a thrilling win and a 1-0 lead in the two-match Test series.
The victory was achieved when Herath trapped last man Mohammad Abbas leg before for nought to become the first left-arm spinner to take 400 Test wickets.
He is the second Sri Lankan bowler and the 14th in all Test cricket, fifth spinner behind his countryman Muttiah Muralitharan, Australia´s Shane Warne and Indian duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to reach the 400-wicket milestone.
Herath, a long-time nemesis of Pakistan, also completed 100 wickets in 20 Tests against them.
For Pakistan only Haris Sohail (34), Asad Shafiq (20) and Sarfraz Ahmed (19) offered any resistance.
Sarfraz Ahmed was unfortunate to lose the match on his Test debut as captain as Pakistan lost for the first time in Abu Dhabi.
The 136 set Pakistan was Sri Lanka´s lowest defended target, improving on the 168 they set the Pakistanis in the Galle Test in 2009. It was also a first defeat for Pakistan at this venue in 10 Tests.
Earlier, leg-spinner Yasir Shah took 5-51 — his 32nd five wicket haul in Tests — to dismiss Sri Lanka for 138 in their second innings.
Niroshan Dickwella ensured Sri Lanka had something to defend with a pugnacious 40.
Pakistan started the chase on a shaky note when Herath dismissed opener Sami Aslam for two before accounting for Asad Shafiq, who made 20.
Herath had taken 5-93 in Pakistan´s first innings of 422 and this time he shared the new ball with Suranga Lakmal to put Pakistan in trouble with regular wickets.
Perera then had Shan Masood (seven) and a shaky Babar Azam for three to leave Pakistan struggling at 32-4. In between fast bowler Lakmal had Azhar Ali caught behind for nought.
On the either side of tea, Sohail and Sarfraz Ahmed (19) fought hard to sticth a 42-run stand but Herath provided the breakthrough when he forced the Pakistan skipper out of his crease and had him stumped by Dickwella.
Perera ended Sohail´s fight by trapping him leg before and also had Shah but it turned out to be a no-ball, halting Sri Lanka´s celebrations, eventually provided by Herath.
Pakistan, led by Shah, bowled well in the morning.
Sri Lanka, who resumed at 69-4, lost their last six wickets for 69 runs but Dickwella still put up a lone fight — hitting four boundaries — and more importantly giving Sri Lanka a target to fight.
Pakistan were given two key wickets by medium fast bowler Mohammad Abbas who finished with 2-22.
It was then left to Shah who on consecutive deliveries dismissed Perera for six and then had Herath caught by close in fielder to complete his fourth consecutive five wicket haul in as many Tests.
Dickwella then took a rearguard action, shielding the number 10 Lakshan Sandakan from the bowling during a resistance-packed ninth wicket stand of 34 which came in 10.1 overs.
Shah finally had Sandakan caught at point while Hasan Ali (1-21) ended the innings by bowling Nuwan Pradeep, leaving Dickwell´s fight stranded.
The second Test — a day-night match — starts in Dubai from Friday.