An interesting test series is set to take place in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan being the home team favorites must be prepared for the unpredictability that is the Sri Lankan cricket team.
Having lost four of their last five matches, Sri Lanka need a win to keep the faith after dishing up some pretty poor performances in recent times. They came up against a tough opposition that was India and ended up losing the test series 3-0, although not entirely unexpected, the effort was disappointing which was reflective in some heavy losses. As we take a look at the bigger picture for this upcoming first test against Pakistan, Sri Lanka must make their presence felt early otherwise they’ll just be walked over the top of yet again. This is a side in transition, all those years of relying on the likes of Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Malinga and Herath are all but done, these up and coming stars need to start showing their worth in the side. A few things need to go Sri Lanka’s way if they are to start their test series with a win, the first of them being a big innings from their newly-appointed test captain Dinesh Chandimal. This is a man who has quickly come of age as an International cricketer, it seems like only yesterday he made a name for himself in the ODI team. Chandimal currently has eight test centuries to his name in 39 matches, so he’s more than capable of pulling together big numbers. They’ll also be heavily relying on opener Dimuth Karunaratne to see off the new ball and hopefully play a similar-type role to the one he played against India in the first & second test. Karunaratne’s 97 in Galle and 141 in Colombo both came in the second innings against the Indians, that indicates that his first innings contributions have been significantly less, even the second test against Bangladesh back in March saw him score 126 in the second innings compared to his first innings efforts of just 7. The spinners will once again play a crucial part in the match for Sri Lanka, 39-year-old Rangana Herath and Lakshan Sandakan playing in just his seventh test will both have their work cut out for them in a very hot & humid first test in Abu Dhabi. Sri Lanka are also expected to play two debutantes which makes the task at hand even more challenging.
Pakistan are sitting in a very similar position, they too are going through a pretty dramatic transition with both Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq calling it quits on their careers in the white clothing which has left a gaping hole in the middle order. Luckily for Pakistan, they’ve produced some pretty handy younger-generation batsmen that are all vying for those spots which makes the transition a lot smoother. Azhar Ali and Babar Azam are among the vital contributors that they will be needing to succeed in this series, this is probably the most inexperienced line-up they have fielded in along time. Babar Azam’s recent form in the Independence Cup against the World XI was simply stunning, scores of 86, 45 and 48 reassured Pakistan that they have something very special at just 22-years of age. Yes it’s a completely different format, but it’s a solid indicator that this man at his best will be scoring double-centuries in test cricket with ease in a matter of no time just like Younis Khan. With two new batting inclusions for the series, this could work a tad in favor of Sri Lanka, although it’s on familiar territory for Pakistan which should take most of that advantage out of consideration. Runs are vital on these types of decks, but this game may well be decided by the bowlers. There’s a clear winner in who’s team possesses the more threatening attack, Pakistan have Mohammad Amir who is extremely dangerous inside the first ten overs of an innings along with Hasan Ali who can do damage with the ball throughout the coarse of a match. Amir’s swing bowling with the new ball in hand will more than likely catch a couple Sri Lankan’s off-guard, he can also generate reverse swing if the ball gets scuffed up enough as the innings progresses. Adding to the tourists troubles is leg-spinner Yasir Shah who is coming off a sensational series against the Windies, walking away with 25 wickets from three matches.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Pakistan | 1st test | Abu Dhabi
- Azhar Ali
- Yasir Shah
- Babar Azam
- Shan Masood
- Mohammad Amir
Top 5 fantasy picks | Sri Lanka | 1st test | Abu Dhabi
- Dimuth Karunaratne
- Dinesh Chandimal
- Rangana Herath
- Nuwan Pradeep
- Kusal Mendis
Team News | Pakistan
Sami Aslam and Haris Sohail look set to replace the retired veterans (Younis & Misbah) which could mean a reshuffle to the batting order. Azhar Ali opened in the test series against the West Indies, expect him to drop down to no. 3 which then allows Sami Aslam to play his natural role as an opening batsman. Haris Sohail could bat above or below Asad Shafiq depending on how the order is structured, Shafiq has been used as a traditional no. 6 for quite some time and could be promoted in this series.
Pakistan (possible) – 1. Shan Masood 2. Sami Aslam 3. Azhar Ali 4. Babar Azam 5. Haris Sohail 6. Asad Shafiq 7. Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk) 8. Mohammad Amir 9. Yasir Shah 10. Hasan Ali 11. Mohammad Abbas.
Team News | Sri Lanka
One of Kaushal Silva or Sadeera Samarawickrama are set to replace Upul Tharanga at the top of the order for this first test. Neither batsmen looks more likely than the other to get the nod, Samarawickrama’s domestic form has been a lot stronger while Silva has the experience but not exactly the greatest record to show for it. It’s a flip of the coin at this stage which could go either way. There are strong vibes that 28-year-old Roshen Silva will make his test debut as a specialist batsman, vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne is also set to play his first test since 2016 against England. Dilruwan Perera appears to be on the outer for this match making selection even more interesting, Sri Lanka already have Herath and Sandakan as their two main spinners in the line-up.
Sri Lanka (possible) – 1. Dimuth Karunaratne 2. Kaushal Silva/Sadeera Samarawickrama 3. Kusal Mendis 4. Dinesh Chandimal (c) 5. Lahiru Thirimanne 6. Niroshan Dickwella (wk) 7. Roshen Silva/Dilruwan Perera 8. Rangana Herath 9. Suranga Lakmal 10. Lakshan Sandakan 11. Nuwan Pradeep.