Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day August 8, 2014

Mushtaq backs rusty bowlers to come good

Pakistan have not played a Test since the UAE series against Sri Lanka in January, and the long layoff is affecting their bowlers' ability to find their stride, according to the team's bowling consultant Mushtaq Ahmed

Pakistan have not played a Test since the UAE series against Sri Lanka in January, and the long layoff is affecting their bowlers' ability to find their stride, according to the team's bowling consultant Mushtaq Ahmed.

The visitors' batsmen had no such trouble in Galle, as they amassed 451 in the first innings, but the Pakistan bowlers were able to take only two wickets in 80 overs. Kumar Sangakkara scored a hundred and Mahela Jayawardene made a half-century as the pair shared an unbroken 108-run stand for the third wicket and countered the spin threat from Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman. Junaid Khan and Mohamamd Talha bowled with determination but had poor results.

"Momentum was definitely missing and obviously there is a reason - we haven't played Tests for so long," Mushtaq told ESPNcricinfo. "Whatever and however you practice, match practice is something that has no equal. These boys last played some seven months back, which isn't an excuse but we still have a lot of cricket left ahead and one good session can bring back the push."

Pakistan bowled 46 overs on the third day and rain washed out the other 44. They are unlikely to lose, but a draw is increasingly becoming the most likely outcome because their bowlers, although economical, have not looked like taking wickets. Kaushal Silva, the only batsman dismissed on the third day, fell against the run of play.

Sangakkara is among few batsmen who play Ajmal with control. He has scored 458 runs against the offspinner and been dismissed only three times. Sangakkara's 2588 runs against Pakistan since 2002 are the most by any batsman against any country in that period.

"Because he [Sangakkara] has played ample cricket against us, he understands his [Ajmal's] variation better than any other batsman in the world," Mushtaq said. "But the other side is Ajmal should be one step ahead of Sangakkara to counter him and he does talk about it. There are things that we are planning to use which Sanga might be unaware of, but it goes with the flow." Ajmal has bowled 29 overs without a wicket in Sri Lanka's first innings.

"Meanwhile the wicket is playing very slow and we have no time to do experiments at the moment but try to get our basics right," Mushtaq said. "I am sure this pitch may deteriorate in later days and he [Ajmal] can restore his lost momentum. It's all a matter of one good spell and you are back in business."

Ajmal had enjoyed a successful partnership with Abdur Rehman when Pakistan beat England 3-0 in the UAE in 2011-12, but Rehman has not been a regular in the Test XI since then. Rehman was also wicketless in his 17 overs in Galle. "He [Rehman] has been in and out over the last few years and for a left-arm spinner it really tough to regain flow instantly.

"I think he got rusty and he needs more than a session to get the right length. Bowlers like Rehman need some time and his partnership with Ajmal is very important for the team. He is the one who actually shares Ajmal's workload and the combination of such bowlers guarding both ends helps the captain a lot."

The lengths bowled by Junaid and Talha wavered through the day and their short-ball strategy was ineffective on a sluggish pitch. Mushtaq spoke about the management's plan to let the fast bowlers try and induce a mistake from the batsmen. "The plan is to nudge them and invite them to play big shot otherwise pitch isn't helping at all," Mushtaq said. "With every spell of the rain the pitch is getting damp and hence we had to do something to break the partnership."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2014, 7:36 GMT

    wicket still looks good to bat on. and it has calmed down after 1st session on day one. If rehman can score a 50 then almost any one can do :) Bowlers look rusty. Talha is not looking any good. Junaid was good but unlucky. Ajmal also lacks the bite.

  • Taqi on August 9, 2014, 7:12 GMT

    Very poor captain ship/ Management they should have given some overs to Younus Khan and Azhar Ali when they felt that these four bowlers are not leaving any impression this would have provided some verity in the bowling and the batsmen would have relaxed under their bowling giving some opportunity to these four.

  • Bis on August 9, 2014, 0:21 GMT

    "Match practice is something that has no equal" - these words should be tattooed for life on the skins of Duncan Fletcher and the BCCI, who have come up with a schedule for the Indian tour of England which involves no first class matches in the itinerary. So the selections made for each test are based solely on how the players perform in the nets! First class cricket is the nursery of test cricket and a tour of England was considered an education for a touring squad because, irrespective of whether they were picked for the tests or not, they would be exposed to the variability of conditions in the first class matches they played. Out of form players would have the opportunity of playing themselves back into form and putting their hat into the ring for selection. Rookie players would gain experience out in the middle - indeed it was customary for touring sides to England to pick one usually young player solely to gain such experience without being given serious consideration for tests.

  • IFTIKHAR on August 8, 2014, 19:58 GMT

    Aamir and Muhammad Asif were a class apart from this present pace attack,probably the weakest in Test cricket, Ajmal is fast going down the hill too though to be fair to him he is up against Sangakarra and Jayawardene who are superb players of spin.The pace bowlers of Pakistan are vastly overrated.Not having enough cricket is no excuse when the ability is not there.For example how much cricket has Younis played before hitting 177 here.?

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    Pakistan's fast bowling stocks are dwindling, Dhamika actually moved the ball better than Junaid and again to be fair I said this but conditions are different too, regardless, Pakistan with Waqar as the helm incharge now should be able to turn things around, also Muhammad Irfan is injured which doesn't help, last I saw a local match in Pakistan on TV, there are a couple of really good spinners which are up and coming, so we are OK with the spin variations fast bowlers is what we need to take on away bats in England and Australia and South Africa and that's where Pakistan is starting to lag behind due to the lack of international cricket in the country, really need the ICC to put an end to this madness about banning cricket in Pakistan, it is safe to play cricket PERIOD.

  • Srinivasa on August 8, 2014, 17:40 GMT

    Pakistan's bowling attack is not looking that threatening as it used to be 5 -10 years back. Of course they are very good at One Day level but need to improve in Test level .Apart from Ajmal there are no other bowlers who looked like taking wickets. I think the comeback of Aamir would be very good for their side because he bowled very well in England when they played against England and Australia 4 years back and i think he will be the player to watch out for in tests.

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