After a closely contested series against South Africa, which the hosts lost 0-1, Sri Lanka prepare for the next battle on their hands. Sri Lanka face Pakistan at Galle on August 6 in the first of the two test match series between the two sub-continent giants.
Pakistan has not played a single test since January and it was kind of shocking that the Pakistan Cricket Board set up the series without arranging for single first class game prior to the first test. Pakistan has not played any form of International cricket since the World T20 in Bangladesh earlier this year. So it was important for PCB to set up a series soon from financial aspects as well. Most of the players are in match practice though having played in the Caribbean Premiere League. The second test starts on August 14 at Columbo. Pakistan will also play 3 limited over matches after the conclusion of the test series on August 23, 27 and 30 at Hambantota, Pallekele and Premadasa Stadiums respectively. In between they will play a 50-over warm-up match in Moratuwa on August 20. Pakistan will host Australia and New Zealand in UAE soon after this tour.
For Sri Lanka this series will be the third successive one after the tour of England and hosting South Africa for limited overs and test series. All of them were short ones – featuring two tests. Having lost the series to South Africa it will be good test for them to hold fort against Pakistan. Galle is expected to have the usual sub-continent track that will assist the spinners as the game progresses. However, last month Dale Steyn produced a brilliant exhibition of fast bowling as he bamboozled the Lankan batsmen and returned with a match winning performance of 9/99. The team would rely heavily on Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews to help them post a big score on the board. Then it will be down to the spinners to pick up 20 wickets.
On the other hand, Pakistan will miss the services of pacemen Umar Gul and Mohammad Irfan. The pace attack will be comprised of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Talha and Wahab Riaz and it will be down to them to trouble the Lankan batsmen. A lot would also depend on their leading spinner Saeed Ajmal as he is one the match-winners in the team in any form of cricket. The batting would be main strength of the Pakistan team and will be led by the senior pros Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan followed by the young talents. Newly appointed batting coach Grant Flower will be looking forward to see a good performance by the batsmen under his guidance. It will also be a tough test for head coach Waqar Younis spin bowling coach Mushtaq given that both the teams know each other very well.
This is the second time that these two teams are meeting in eight months. Sri Lanka played three Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20s in the UAE in December and January. They also played each other in two Asia Cup fixtures. The teams had shared the test series in the UAE. These two teams have played in five series over the past five years – home and away in 2009, followed by Pakistan hosting Sri Lanka in 2011 and touring Sri Lanka in 2012.