After an ignominious defeat in the first Test against Sri Lanka, Pakistan are in dire need for a turnaround.
Crushed by 209 runs after being skittled for 100 in their first innings in Galle, Pakistan are in a must-win situation heading into the second Test at the SSC in Colombo starting Friday.
If there is one positive that the tourists can take into this match, it is the return of their regular captain Misbah-ul-Haq after one-Test suspension for slow over-rate in the fifth ODI of the preceding series. The 38-year-old’s presence in the starting XI means that Mohammad Ayub, who made his Test debut in Galle and notched up scores of 25 and 22, will have to sit out.
The Sri Lankan spin duo of Suraj Randiv and Rangana Herath shared 12 wickets between them in the series opener and made life tough for the Pakistan batsmen. The visitors’ batting has to find a way to deal with these two.
The SSC pitch has a reputation of being very batting-friendly and the threat of the hosts’ captain Mahela Jayawardene is looming large over the Pakistan camp. Jayawardene is the leading run-scorer in Tests at this venue – he averages 79.32 here – and once again is likely to influence the outcome of the match. Throw in the presence of Thilan Samaraweera, who averages 82.60 at the SSC, and first-Test centurions Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, and things look ominous for Misbah’s men.
Sri Lanka are likely to go in with an unchanged squad. The rookie medium-pacer Nuwan Pradeep, who got an opportunity to play in Galle on account Chanaka Welegedara’s groin injury, is expected to be given another chance despite having taken a single wicket. However, the inclusion of Dilhara Fernando as Welegedara’s replacement throws him into the ring too.
Sri Lanka are certain favorites, because they are stronger with bat and ball. Pakistan have been known to pull off an upset or two, but it looks tough for them going into what promises to be a run-filled Test.
Sri Lanka: 1 Tharanga Paranavitana, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews 7, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Suraj Randiv, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Nuwan Pradeep/Dilhara Fernando
Pakistan: 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Abdur Rehman, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Junaid Khan