Younis Khan (left) and Misbah-ul-Haq © AFP
Younis Khan (left) and Misbah-ul-Haq © AFP

A few days back Marvan Atapattu had said that Sri Lankan cricket has hit “rock bottom”. The 1996 World Cup champions are going through the toughest phase, and soon they will land in UAE to play Pakistan in a full series. Pakistan may have enjoyed success of late in limited-overs cricket but when they step on the greens in whites, they will be without the stalwarts Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. The duo retired early this year in West Indies. The biggest hope for Sri Lanka is probably the wizardry and experience of Rangana Herath.

Herath drew parallels between the retirement of Misbah and Younis to the ones of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara: “That’s a big relief that we don’t have to play against the two of them anymore. They were easily their two best players. Vastly experienced, very good players of spin and do not give away their wickets easily. Pakistan will face a situation like us when we lost Mahela and Sanga around the same time,” Herath told Cricbuzz.

Younis became the first Pakistani to breach the 10,000-run mark in Tests while Misbah retired as the country’s most successful captain, winning 26 of 56 Tests he led in. It is a pity that Misbah never got to lead Pakistan in Pakistan.

It was Younis’ 171 not out that helped Pakistan triumph against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in 2015. Pakistan were set 377, and they pulled that off easily, by 7 wickets, despite being reduced to 13 for 2. Misbah scored an unbeaten fifty as well. Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews had confessed that the victory would be a bitter pill to swallow. From snatching a win from seemingly impossible defeat to being crowned the No. 1 Test side in a year’s time, Pakistan came a long way thanks to their stalwarts.

Even Younis’ career-best 313 came against Sri Lanka at Karachi in the infamous 2009 series. In fact, Younis had scored 9 of his 34 Test hundreds against Sri Lanka. Herath has reasons to feel relieved, especially after a time when Sri Lanka have been recently battered 0-3 in a Test series against India at home. In fact, the tour scoreline read 0-9.

Herath added, “It will be a closely contested series. They are ranked sixth and we are ranked seventh. Our confidence levels took a beating during the Indian series and this is a good opportunity for us to lift our standards. Pakistan have some very good young players and I am looking forward for [sic] the challenge.

Sri Lanka will play the first Test from September 28. The second match of the series will be Sri Lanka’s first with the pink-ball (day-night Test). After the 2-Test series, Sri Lanka will play 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is with the last game being hosted at Lahore (subject to security clearance).