Misbah-ul-Haq (left) and Angelo Mathews face off in after the battle in the UAE earlier this year © Getty Images
Misbah-ul-Haq (left) and Angelo Mathews face off again after the battle in the UAE earlier this year © Getty Images

By Sandipan Banerjee

Aug 5, 2014

Sri Lanka and Pakistan will face each other at Galle on Wednesday to commence yet another Test series between these two Asian giants. This is going to be the sixth Test series between them since 2008. The upcoming two-match Test series was not part of the Future Tours Programme (FTP). It was finalized only after the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB’s) special request to accommodate more matches for Misbah-ul-Haq’s team.

Pakistan is looking for their first series win since defeating England in the UAE in 2012. The biggest worry for the team management is that Pakistan haven’t played Test cricket in last six months. Their last match in the longer format of the game was against Sri Lanka in United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this year. Though the players have undergone a conditioning camp to prepare for this tour, there was no alternative of match practice. The players will be rusty in the start of the series. Captain Misbah recently admitted that.

Off late, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) made some changes in coaching set-up. Waqar Younis has been recalled as the head coach and Zimbabwean Grant Flower was appointed as batting coach. Pakistan have dropped Mohammad Hafeez and recalled Umar Akmal in the Test squad. Interestingly, Akmal last represented Pakistan in Test matches three years ago. He will face tough competition from Asad Shafiq for a place in the playing eleven.

In the bowling department, Saeed Ajmal will be Pakistan’s key on the spin-friendly Galle track. But he has to be well supported by Abdur Rehman and the pacers Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz.

For hosts Sri Lanka, it is an emotional time as Mahela Jayawardene is playing his last series. Jayawardene, one of the greats of the modern game recently retired from Twenty20 internationals (T20I) after Sri Lanka’s title-winning campaign in the ICC World T20 2014. Now after this series he will quit the longer format of game. Averaging 50.09 in Tests, Jayawardene will be remembered for his swift touch play.

Sri Lanka have made just two changes from their 15 member squad, which recently lost the home Test series against South Africa 0-1. They left out wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal and spinner Ajantha Mendis from the 15-member squad. In comes their one of the heroes of England series, fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep. He missed the recent South Africa Test series due to injury and youngster Niroshan Dickwella keeps his place as the specialist wicketkeeper. Shaminda Eranga has been included, but they have fitness issues.  Suranga Lakmal has been ruled out due to injury.

It is going to be fascinating to watch out the battle between Rangana Herath and Saeed Ajmal. On a spin friendly wicket, against players who play spin really well, it will be a test of characters for both Herath and Ajmal. The second match of the series will be played at Jayawardene’s favourite Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), Colombo. Keeping the occasion and recent performances in mind the hosts will start the Test series as favourites. But Pakistan won’t be far behind.

Squads:

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Lahiru Thrimanne (vc), Kaushal Silva, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Shaminda Eranga, Chanaka Welegedara, Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep.

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (w), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Talha, Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz.

Time: 10:00 IST | 04:30 GMT

(Sandipan Banerjee is a reporter at Cricket Country. Cricket has been the biggest passion for him since his childhood. So, when it came to choosing his career, he chose to turn his passion into his profession. Apart from cricket he likes mountain trekking, river rafting and photography. His twitter handle is @im_sandipan)