Will Dubai provide more for spinners?
Match factsJanuary 8-12, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0600 GMT)
Big PictureIf there is a pitch in the UAE that might make amends for the anticlimactic fourth and fifth days in Abu Dhabi, it is the surface in Dubai. In the last match at the venue, spinners accounted for 12 first-innings scalps and the match ended with a day to spare. Rangana Herath had done marginally better than Saeed Ajmal in the first Test, but in truth, neither were ever really a major threat. If either finds assistance in Dubai, it is unlikely the batsmen can play out another draw.
As many as five Test matches have been played at Dubai International Stadium with four ending up with a result. With the series locked at 0-0, a draw obviously will not be a satisfying result for both teams.
Pakistan's biggest aim will be to guard against complacency. Despite taking a 179-run lead in the first innings, they had to toil hard to salvage the match; at one stage they had been in a position to win but Sri Lanka's batsman changed the game to give Pakistan a scare. Big runs are what captain Misbah-ul-Haq and coach Dav Whatmore are endeavouring for. Pakistan might be the better bowling side but they still need their batsman to stand up.
With Ahmed Shahzad and Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's top order looked to be a settled one but they might tweak the opening combination, bringing in left-hander Shan Masood in place of Khurram Manzoor - who combined 29 runs in the first Test following his previous back-to-back ducks.
Sri Lanka's top order may feel they have an edge, however, if the match becomes a spin-bowling shootout. Ajmal's 49 wicketless overs in the second innings in Abu Dhabi gave the visiting batsmen an extended view of his variations, and in any case, Sri Lanka have been Pakistan's most frequent foe in the past five years. Rangana Herath also bowled over 56 overs at Pakistan during the Test, but he is less reliant on mystery, owing more of his success to flight and guile. Still, Sri Lanka would do well to be count on Ajmal making an impact in what are effectively his home conditions.
Sri Lanka's batting has also strummed up some form in the first Test, where only Dimuth Karunaratne and Mahela Jayawardene failed to cross 50. The challenge to Sri Lanka's young players is to build consistency into their cricket, particularly as Pakistan will have run their own analysis of each opposition batsman.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: DWDLL
In the spotlightSri Lanka seam bowlers Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal did not earn outstanding figures in Abu Dhabi, but the discipline they displayed an unsuspected positive. Having come into the series with startlingly little match-practice, they have now also warmed to their work with 87 collective overs. If the surface is as dry as it is expected to be, perhaps they will not be penetrative, but Sri Lanka have sought to build pressure as a unit in recent years, and the team will hope their long, accurate spells in Abu Dhabi can be recreated in Dubai.
The second innings in Abu Dhabi had proved an unproductive one for Saeed Ajmal, the fifth time he failed to take a wicket in an innings. He's got 34 wickets in Dubai, the most taken by a bowler at Dubai International Stadium and once again expectations are high on him. He remains Pakistan's biggest threat.
Lahiru Thirimanne and Nuwan Kulasekara have both left the UAE with injury and Kusal Perera landed in the UAE about 36 hours before the next match is to begin. Having had such success with the batting line-up from the first Test however, Angelo Mathews is unlikely to change his top seven. The only player who may be switched out is Sachithra Senanayake, who had a mediocre debut, albeit on an unresponsive surface. Uncapped offspinner Dilruwan Perera might replace him, but if Sri Lanka believe the grass on the pitch will make a significant impact, there is a chance Nuwan Pradeep could play instead.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Kaushal Silva, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4. Mahela Jayawardene, 5. Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 6. Angelo Mathews (capt), 7. Dinesh Chandimal, 8. Sachithra Senanayake/ Dilruwan Perera/Nuwan Pradeep, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Suranga Lakmal
Pakistan's first-choice wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal was injured during the first Test, and Sarfraz Ahmed has arrived to take his place. Pakistan could play two specialist spinners with Rahat Ali possibly sitting out.
Pakistan (probable): 1. Ahmed Shehzad, 2. Shan Masood/Khurram Manzoor, 3. Mohammad Hafeez, 4. Younis Khan, 5. Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6. Asad Shafiq, 7. Bilawal Bhatti, 8. Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9. Saeed Ajmal, 10. Abdur Rehman, 11. Junaid Khan
Pitch and conditions
The Dubai stadium has some of the most predictable weather in the world, but if any team can bring rain to the desert, it's Sri Lanka. There has been little sun in the 48 hours before the match, which means there is a chance the pitch is a little less dry than usual. There is a veneer of live grass, but perhaps not enough to alter the fundamental characteristics of the surface.
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have won only one match in the last 12 against Sri Lanka, but that victory came in Dubai in 2011
- Saeed Ajmal has 34 wickets in Dubai at 20.11. Rangana Herath has three at 39.33.
"Sachithra and Dilruwan bowl quite differently. Dilruwan turns the ball a lot usually, while Sachithra bowls very good lines and lengths. If we play Dilruwan, that would be his debut as well, and he'd be under the same pressure that Sachithra was. Both those bowlers are good and anyone will be under pressure on Test debut. We're not trying to knock Sachithra's confidence - we want him to develop for the future." Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews on the spinners that may compete for a place in Dubai
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent