Pakistan-Team

After a disappointing tour of Bangladesh, Pakistan will look to bounce back against Sri LankaSudatta Mukherjee predicts the playing XI for Pakistan for the first Test at Galle.

Following a shambolic One-Day International (ODI) series against Bangladesh in April-May, and a hard-fought first Test ending in a draw, Pakistan returned to winning ways when they won the second Test against the host nation by 328 runs. The team returned to Pakistan, welcoming international cricket at home after six years and won the Twenty20 International (T20I) series and ODIs comprehensively against Zimbabwe. However, a far more competitive opposition awaits them, as they arrive in Sri Lanka to play three Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is. READ: Sri Lanka vs Pakistan,1st Test at Galle: Preview

Compared to the squad which toured Bangladesh, Pakistan have made a couple of changes, and the highlight being the exclusion of Saeed Ajmal. That is probably due to the inability of the spinner to inspire victories like he did before being suspended for illegal bowling action. As a result, in his absence Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah will have to take responsibilities. READ: Kumar Sangakkara looks to build on prolific Test record during Pakistan series ahead of retirement

Misbah-ul-Haq will be leading the side and given his experience, he is likely to have more plans in store to counter the Sri Lankans, compared to Angelo Mathews, who has been leading his side for a couple of years now. Adding to that, Misbah’s record against Sri Lanka is quite impressive. He has a batting average of 46.35. However, it is to be noted that Misbah has played seven Tests in Sri Lanka and his average is 28 in the Island nation. There is much expected by Misbah in this tour, especially coming back from an unsatisfying Test series against Bangladesh.

Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad are likely to open the innings for Pakistan in the first Test. Hafeez comes back from a brilliant series against Bangladesh. Hafeez’s 224 in the first Test was probably the saving grace for Pakistan. Shehzad has been pretty impressive as well. From eight Tests, he has an average of 47.86, with three centuries under his belt. However, it will be interesting to see how he performs after missing the Test series against Bangladesh. Shehzad in his last tour of Sri Lanka could manage only 86 runs from four innings. Given his reputation and talent, much more is expected from the 23-year-old.

The experienced trio of Azhar Ali, Younis Khan and Misbah are likely to done the middle-order. Azhar Ali and Younis Khan’s magnificent partnership in the second Test against Bangladesh was the key to the visitor’s success. Azhar Ali scored 226, while Younis scored 148. They were involved in a 250-run stand for the fourth wicket. Misbah might not had an impressive tour of Bangladesh like Azhar Ali and Younis, nonetheless, his years of experience and stature is enough to motivate the visitors.

Sarfraz Ahmed is the only keeping choice for Pakistan. Asad Shafiq is likely to get the come out, with the experience of having played a good knock of 83 in first Test and picking up a wicket too. READ: Sri Lanka vs Pakistan,1st Test at Galle: Preview

Galle is traditionally a spinner’s paradise, with the venue being a favourite hunting ground for both Muttiah Muralitharan and later Rangana Herath. Taking a cue from Sri Lanka, Pakistan are likely to play both Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar.

Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz will be the two pacers for Pakistan. Both Junaid and Wahab have good experience of playing enough Tests compared to the other pacers.  And they did well in the Test series against Bangladesh.

The contest is likely to be between spinners and Sri Lankan batsmen, with Kumar Sangakkara leading the batting power for the hosts. Pakistan, led by Misbah, need to worry about Herath, who can be a menace.

The Test series will be important for senior players of both the sides, who will be looking to play well in a transitional period for both the teams, guiding the youngsters in a new era and preparing them for the future. With no Mahela Jayawardene to support Sangakkara in the middle, the experience of Younis and Misbah, along with Azhar will like to take advantage over the expertise of Mathews and co.

Expected XI: Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Asad Shafiq, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan.

Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English television show on her laptop. Her Twitter handle is @blackrosegal)