Focus will be on Misbah ul Haq who is desperate to win a Test series as captain after 2012 © Getty Images (File Picture)
The unpredictable Pakistanis are all set to play their first Test after a long gap of six months. Having won their last Test series under Misbah-ul-Haq in United Arab Emirates (UAE) against England in 2012, they will look to get into winning ways in this two-match series. Rajarshi Majumdar analyses the present Pakistan squad and their chances in this series ahead of the first Test at Galle against Sri Lanka starting from Wednesday.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq recently said the visitors are all set to challenge the hosts on their own backyard. Though he himself admitted in an interview few days back that indeed his team is rusty. Although they are yet to win a series under Misbah since 2012, but they had registered their last Test victory against the mighty Lankans in Sharjah earlier this year.
The victory came because of some terrific batting from Misbah and Azhar Ali, who helped Pakistan to chase 302 runs in 59 overs in the final day of the third Test where they had to win in order to level the series. Newly appointed coach Waqar Younis looked confident and has also said that his team will play quality cricket.
The present Pakistan squad has a mixture of experience and some promising fresh performers. Younis Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq will come in handy with their experience. On the other hand, the young faces like Wahab Riaz, Mohammed Talha, Ahmd Shazad, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Junaid Khan will look forward to prove their worth. It will not be easy for Pakistan to win against the Lankans in their backyard. But the conditions might favour their spinners, Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman. Specially the performance of Saeed Ajmal, their main weapon —will decide Pakistan’s fate on this tour.
Umar Akmal made his way back into the Test squad after a gap of three long years. The selectors made a statement that he has been performing well in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and T20s so it’s time for him to further reinforce the Pakistani middle order. Asad Shafiq who has been in decent form off late, will give him tough fight for a place in the playing eleven.
Azhar Ali and Ahmad Shahzad are most likely to open the batting for Pakistan. Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have always been a threat for any bowlers if they set themselves in. They are capable of taking on and ripping apart any formidable bowling attack across the cricketing nations.
The sub-continental conditions are not likely to favour bowlers like Junaid Khan, Mohammed Talha and Wahab Riaz. But they have to take inspiration from Dale Steyn’s performance in the last series. Pakistan pacers need to back up Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman. Pakistan spinners are known for their consistency and will look to make full use of the rough patches on the pitch as the match goes into fourth and fifth day.
This is surely going to be a classic contest between two similar teams. Sri Lanka will look to continue with their dominance in their backyard but somehow they were rocked after South Africa managed to win both the Test and ODI series last month. Pakistan will also like to make a winning start to their massive season ahead. Pakistan will host Australia and New Zealand in UAE following the tour of Sri Lanka.
(Rajarshi Majumdar is a reporter at CricketCountry. He played cricket for all age levels under the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for over 12 years. Apart from cricket he is an avid follower of football, supports Manchester United and a foodie at heart.)