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Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka 2014: Tantalisingly close middle-order battle between the sides

All eyes will be on Sri Lankan veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene, who is all set to hang up his boots in the Test format at the conclusion of the series © Getty Images
All eyes will be on Sri Lankan veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene, who is all set to hang up his boots in the Test format at the conclusion of the series © Getty Images

Sri Lanka and Pakistan clash in what will be their sixth Test series in six years. Runs and spin bowling are expected to rule the roost and the quality of batting, especially in the middle order is expected to be a treat from both sides. R Vishal compares the statistics of three of the batsmen from both sides who are expected to make a difference in the series.

There are two recurring themes in Sri Lanka-Pakistan encounters. The spinners are the main weapons for both sides, but with heavyweights in the batting, the encounters get the extra punch. Both sides have some quality batsmen and it is difficult to choose between the two sides. On one hand, you have Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq and on the other, there is the class and elegance of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Let us weight the batting strengths of both sides. Given the fact that both sides have faced off quite regularly in recent years, the numbers do reveal quite a lot.

Pakistan:

*Against Sri Lanka Player Matches Runs Ave 50s 100s Highest Score
Younis Khan

24

1808

50.22

6

6

313

Misbah-ul-Haq

13

860

53.75

7

1

135

Azhar Ali

7

674

61.27

2

4

157

Younis Khan: At the age of 36, Younis’s hunger and insatiable appetite for runs remain undiminished. Undoubtedly, he will be the trump card for Pakistan and the sheer volume of runs denote that. Younis has seen the pendulum oscillate from the glory days; which he either scripted or led his team and the days when the team’s fortunes bit the dust on and off the pitch. Younis is the only one with a triple hundred during the encounters between the two sides. From Muttiah Muralitharan to Rangana Herath, he has slayed them all and his sheer numbers denote that.

Misbah-ul-Haq: Pakistan skipper Misbah loves the Sri Lankan bowling attack just as much as his partner-in-crime Younis. Misbah has only one century to his name and that has been largely due to missing out on turning his solid starts into three figure scores. Misbah and Younis complement each other really well at the crease. The old warhorse, Misbah has many layers to his batting and can seamlessly shuttle from defence to attack with his strokeplay.

Azhar Ali: The last time the two sides played against each other, Azhar Ali’s workmanlike century set up a near impossible win in the fourth innings. A pure joy to watch and armed with a near copybook technique, Azhar has simply gorged on the Sri Lankan bowlers. The slow nature of the Sri Lankan wickets have hardly given the classy right-hander a cause for worry and averages 60 in the three Tests in the Island Nation.

Sri Lanka:

*Against Pakistan

Player Matches Runs Ave 50s 100s Highest Score
Mahela Jayawardene

27

1544

32.16

8

2

240

Kumar Sangakkara

19

2486

80.19

10

9

230

Angelo Mathews

12

842

56.13

5

1

157*

 

Mahela Jayawardene: The Sri Lankan batting legend will hang up his boots in Test cricket after the second Test in Colombo (SSC). For all his herculean feats for Sri Lanka over the years, Mahela Jayawardene’s average against Pakistan fails to pass muster. More so, given the fact he is one of the gifted batsmen of his generation and is almost peerless on the subcontinent. It was Jayawardene’s classy century that gave Sri Lanka their previous victory over Pakistan. Don’t be surprised if he pulls off another marathon knock at his beloved SSC to pull down curtains.

Kumar Sangakkara: Staggering is the only word to describe the way Kumar Sangakkara’s sheer numbers that he has stockpiled against Pakistan over the years. With nine tons and 10 fifties, the doyen of Sri Lankan cricket’s Bradman-esque feats puts him head and shoulders above the rest as the pick of the batsmen being listed here. Sangakkara’s battles against Saeed Ajmal will be a treat to watch.

Angelo Mathews: Playing lower down the order or being thrust into captaincy at 25 has barely affected Angelo Mathews’s form or clarity of thought. As a batsman, Mathews is growing exponentially and the numbers after taking over the reins as skipper is there for everyone to see. Mathews’s baptism as a Test batsman came in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December, where he amassed scores such as 91 and 157 not out. It is expected that he raises his reputation as a batsman by a few more notches in this series.

(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)

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