Pakistan wary of Herath threat in must-win game against Sri Lanka
DUBAI – Pakistan are hopeful their batsmen will regroup and negate the threat of Rangana Herath when they face the veteran left-arm spinner in the pink-ball, day-night second and final Test against Sri Lanka starting in Dubai on Friday.
Playing without batting greats Younis Khan and Misbahul Haq for the first time in Abu Dhabi, the inexperienced batsmen were undone Herath, who stopped them from chasing down a modest 136-run target on a wearing fifth-day pitch with figures of 6 for 43.
Pakistan’s 21-run loss was its first defeat at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and has left it needing to win the second Test to avoid its first series defeat in its hitherto unconquered UAE fortress. If it loses the series, it will slip to seventh in the ICC Test rankings, for the first time in seven years.
Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan skipper, was confident of his team staging a comeback. “As such there is no pressure, but we know the task,” said Sarfraz on Thursday. “We were in a position from where we should have won the first Test. Credit should be given to Herath for the way he bowled, so we need to attack him more in this Test.”
Sarfraz said Hasan Ali, the fast bowler, had suffered a side strain in the first Test, and would be replaced by Wahab Riaz.
Pakistan will also hope Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Amir lift their performances. “Their form is not a worry. We know how good a batsman Asad is. He was batting well in the first innings and then got a good ball in the second,” said Sarfraz of the experienced batsman, who had scores of 39 and 20 in Abu Dhabi. “I am sure he will lift his performance.
“Amir bowled well but was unlucky not to get a wicket,” said Sarfraz of the left-arm quick, who went wicketless in the first Test.
Sri Lanka, which drew against Bangladesh, defeated Zimbabwe and then lost to India in its last three series, will replace Pakistan at sixth position and also record its first away series win over Pakistan since its 2-1 victory in 1999-2000 if it manages to win or draw the second Test.
The pink-ball Test, the sixth in all since Australia and New Zealand played the first such game in Adelaide in 2015, will also be a new experience for the Sri Lankans.
“We played one domestic game with the pink ball. For the first 20-25 overs, it helps the fast bowlers as it swings, so we will be up for that,” said Dinesh Chandimal, who revealed that Lahiru Thirimanne, his deputy, would be assessed before the Test as he was suffering from a back problem.
If Thirimanne is ruled out, Sri Lanka will hand a Test debut to Sadeera Samarawickrama, the fast-rising batsman.
“We know Pakistan is a good side,” said Chandimal, who scored an unbeaten 155 in Sri Lanka’s first-innings 419 in Abu Dhabi. “As a unit, we want to go back to our basics and if we go on and win the series, it will be very good. We will be looking for a win.”
Chandimal believes the Dubai pitch will behave in the same manner as Abu Dhabi, bringing his match-winner Herath into play again.
“I think it will be like the Abu Dhabi pitch and also help spinners, so it will be a good game for both the teams,” said the Sri Lankan captain.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage. –ICC