Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah January 15, 2014

Struggling Pakistan look for second wind


Match facts

Thursday, January 16 - January 20, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0600 GMT)

Big Picture

As an engrossing tour winds up, Pakistan find themselves in need of a considerable change in momentum to draw the series, while Sri Lanka seek to build on the significant improvements they have achieved in the Tests so far. Suggestions that Pakistan were favourites, in the approach to the contest, seem distant now.

Pakistan might have entered the series on a high, but find themselves on the back foot in the final Test. Their pace attack remains a decent threat, but has been unproductive so far, while spinners have struggled on pitches without much turn.

The inconsistency of the top order has also affected Pakistan's combination. Mohammad Hafeez was rewarded for his one-day form but he failed to extend his aptitude in the longer-format of the game, scoring 11, 80*, 21 and 1 at No. 3, while Ahmed Shehzad has also failed. The selection of Hafeez and Shehzad meant that the specialist No. 3 batsman, Azhar Ali, and Shan Masood were benched.

In Dubai, Sri Lanka were in control of the match from the second session on day one until they hit the winning runs on the fifth afternoon. Consistency from their fast bowlers was key to that victory, but the batsmen have all worked themselves into form as well, with Nos 1 to 7 hitting half-centuries.

Kumar Sangakkara has, in the past, been Sri Lanka's sledgehammer against Pakistan, but among the more unexpected features of the 1-0 lead is that he has only contributed modestly towards it. He has played Saeed Ajmal exceedingly well in the past, but even without a big innings from him, Sri Lanka's batsmen have played Ajmal safely, if not always with ease. Misbah-ul-Haq has called for a dry pitch in Sharjah and, if he gets his wish, it will be clear whether the Sri Lanka batsmen were just fortunate to play Ajmal on unresponsive surfaces, or whether they have collectively learned to neutralise him as no other team has done in recent years.

As a team, Sri Lanka have also played within themselves, adhering strictly and persistently to the plans of attack devised in the dressing room. At times, Pakistan have tried to wear Sri Lanka down, only to find their opponents were more resilient. Awash with inexperience, Sri Lanka will not want to change a good thing, so it may be up to Pakistan to change the tempo of the cricket in order to put the visitors under pressure.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)
Pakistan: LDLWL
Sri Lanka: WDWDL

In the spotlight

Dimuth Karunaratne has deserved his extended stretch in the national team after sustained excellence at the A-team level, but he is yet to seal his place atop the innings. A natural strokemaker, particularly gifted through the leg side, Karunaratne has had the habit of making good starts before falling prey to his own ambition and playing one stroke too many. There is enough in his cricket to convince fans and selectors that he can succeed in Tests, but in a series where many others in the top-order have outshone him, at least one score above fifty in Sharjah will put him at ease ahead of the Bangladesh tour.

Saeed Ajmal is under the spotlight once again. He was wicketless in the second innings in Abu Dhabi for 49 overs, conceding 115 runs, and had to wait another 28.2 overs in Dubai to take his first wicket, making the stretch 77.2 overs. He is desperate to put his fluctuating form in the last two Tests behind him.

Pitch and conditions

The track in Sharjah looks flatter and if a batting-friendly pitch is prepared, it may help the team batting first. The pitch is also expected to offer turn from the third day.

Teams news

Pakistan will be forced to bring in a bowler in place of pacer Bilawal Bhatti, who injured his hamstring during the second Test and may look to add left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman to strengthen their spin reserves.

Pakistan (probable): 1. Shan Masood/Ahmed Shehzad, 2. Khurram Manzoor, 3. Mohammad Hafeez/Azhar Ali, 4. Younis Khan, 5. Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6. Asad Shafiq 7. Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), 8. Saeed Ajmal, 9. Rahat Ali/Mohammad Talha, 10. Junaid Khan, 11. Abdur Rehman

Mahela Jayawardene's split webbing means he is unlikely to field in the slips, but he is almost certain to play, having trained normally in the approach to the match. If the pitch looks likely to take turn, Sri Lanka may rest Nuwan Pradeep, who was short of his quickest pace in the second innings in Dubai, and play a second spinner. Sachithra Senanayake may get a second game, but uncapped Dilruwan Perera is also in the side, and is the more highly-rated offspinner in first-class cricket. Elsewhere, Angelo Mathews will not want to change a winning combination, even if his team is a little light on bowling options.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Dimuth Karunaratne, 2. Kaushal Silva, 3. Kumar Sangakkara, 4. Mahela Jayawardene, 5. Dinesh Chandimal, 6. Angelo Mathews (capt), 7. Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8. Sachithra Senanayake/ Dilruwan Perera/Nuwan Pradeep, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Suranga Lakmal

Stats and trivia

  • Kumar Sangakkara has at least one hundred in each of his six previous series against Pakistan.
  • Dimuth Karunaratne's lowest score in the series is 24, and he only has one half-century.
  • Junaid Khan is the leading wicket-taker in the series, with 11 scalps at 26.09.


"In the past there was a feeling that the fast bowlers aren't effective, but we were able to change that idea on this tour."
Sri Lanka fast bowler Suranga Lakmal

"We have to really put some effort and get a result which we want, to level the series. There is no other option for us."
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq

Arnold: A lot depends on the pitch

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here; Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Solid_Snake on January 16, 2014, 8:19 GMT

    Team selection is great for this match..But this pitch is not something which would give us a result.I wonder what was in mind of PCB while preparing pitches.We should have gone for a win but we got a lifeless flat track instead.Now we will see piles of runs in this match..

    PS:Talha bowled beautifully..His control over line and length is just too good..Great action and Pace..Far better than Rahat Ali..Best of luck to hope Talha get more wickets and stays in the team.We need more youngsters like that..

  • Solid_Snake on January 16, 2014, 8:13 GMT

    @mzm149:Khurram Manzoor's place in the team is questionable but Asad Shafiq should be given more chances.He has proved himself already.Manzoor on the other hand has got so many flaws.I wonder how Manzoor made it into the team.Shan Masood when compared to him is technically better yet he was dropped just after 2 matches..

  • safwan_tauseef on January 16, 2014, 5:58 GMT

    A good team selection from pakistan but should be the last chance for Asad Shafeeq. Dont wory pakistan loss the toss if pakistani bowlers make their line and lenth in the right areas thay should change the match. Good Luck team pakistan

  • mzm149 on January 16, 2014, 5:49 GMT

    Retaining Asad Shafiq and Khurram Manzoor is mind boggling. I think they have to keep 2 or 3 quota players, no matter how bad they are.

  • android_user on January 16, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    how is win this match

  • dual.citizen on January 16, 2014, 5:37 GMT

    Shan masood is definitely not better than Shehzad, later has greater potential and former has FC average of less than 35 certainly below par for an opener. He should not have been there in the first place. Shehzad is also a useful leg break bowler and should be used for change and when nothing else works. Let him place 3rd test to give him confidence, we have no better alternative. BUT Hafeez should be dropped otherwise he may lose confidence and we will be without services of a useful one day player. Another spinner may be required too.

  • Zeeeeb104 on January 16, 2014, 5:18 GMT

    pakistan line up should b (from cricinfo research)

    1 shan masood 2 israhullah 3 umar siddiq 4 younis khan 5 misbah ul haq 6 aamed sajjad 7 umar akmal/mohammed hasan 8 abdur rehman/saeed ajmal 9 nasir malik 10 junaid khan 11 mohammed tahla

  • espncricinfomobile on January 16, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    One more chance for hafeez

  • dummy4fb on January 16, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    Sri Lanka should secure series victory 2-0 provided the fast bowlers copy what they did in the second test, get closer to the stump at point of delivery, keep the ball closer to the off stump and let the pitch and the conditions do the rest. When you try too many things, you tend to err. KISS is the answer. Also just forget that you won the second test because you cannot live in the past but concentrate on this match in total. Do not become too bullish about the last win because one mistake and it can go the other way. Prior to the match in team talk must tell in particular to the young ones that it is not about resting on your laurels but seeing this as a new day and new match and work moment to moment. Above all should not live neither in the past nor present but this moment.

  • dummy4fb on January 16, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    @zakir habib man why persist with hafeez..he is useless at even number 6..because a number 6 batsman has to play the new ball in on average of 20 overs time when he comes to the crease...hafeez is a liability that need to be settled by kicking him out and saying, "STAY OUT !!!"

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