Visitor will attempt to register its first win on Sri Lankan soil since 2006 during three-Test series
Sri Lanka and Pakistan will lock horns for the fourth time in two years when the first Test of a three-Test series begins in Galleon Wednesday (June 17).
Both sides know each other quite intimately, this being their sixth series in as many years. The last of those series also took place in Sri Lanka a year ago, the host winning both Tests to ensure Pakistan remained winless on Sri Lankan soil since 2006.
Pakistan’s hopes of breaking that streak was boosted following encouraging performances during the drawn three-day tour-game against Sri Lanka Board President's XI which ended on Saturday. Ahmed Shehzad, back in the 15-man Test squad after being overlooked for the Bangladesh series last month, scored a fine 82 in the first innings, and veteran Younus Khan chipped in with a 78-ball 64. In the second innings, Shan Masood, also recalled to the side, scored 69.
But the biggest positive lay in the performance of Zulfiqar Babar. The left-arm spinner dismantled the Board XI middle and lower orders in the first innings to end with fine figures of 6 for 31.
Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, said Pakistan was confident following its commendable 2-0 win over Australia in the United Arab Emirates last year and the 1-0 triumph in Bangladesh in May. “It is always interesting to play Sri Lanka because both sides know each other’s game well,” said Misbah. “Pakistan has done well in Tests recently and that has given us a lot of confidence.”
Sri Lanka too had positives to take away from the warm-up game. Kaushal Silva scored a fine century in the first innings, a 222-ball 101 that led the resistance against Babar’s assault, and in the second innings, Dimuth Karunaratne scored a 69-ball 54.
However, it was the performance of his pacemen that Marvan Atapattu, the Sri Lanka head coach, was particularly looking forward to. “Our fast bowlers are more disciplined than a decade ago if you exclude Chaminda Vaas, who was in a different class," he said. "We are trying to bring in more discipline to our fast bowling unit and hopefully we will see results.
"We don't have anybody who bowls at 150kph at the moment but you really don't have to. You don't need to be fast to trouble a batsman. We are more equipped in our unit to combat situations."
Atapattu also said fielding was an area that had been worked on, with Jonty Rhodes, the former South Africa batsman, roped in to the setup. “Jonty Rhodes coming to Sri Lanka doesn't mean that we are going to hold on to every catch that comes our way," he said. "What we expected from Jonty was to give us new tips and techniques so that we can improve our players and to work on them, which we are doing through our local coaches who are capable.
"Our fielding can improve not only because of Jonty's contribution but it could be because the conditions are different here and more suitable for our guys. We know our conditions better than anybody else."
Apart from the three Tests, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will also play five One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals in a tour that will last till early August.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Kithruwan Vithanage, Jehan Mubarak, Kusal Perera, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Tharindu Kaushal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhammika Prasad, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal.