Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Dubai January 7, 2014

Will Dubai provide more for spinners?

51

Arnold: Ajmal a bigger threat in Dubai

Match facts

January 8-12, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0600 GMT)

Big Picture

If 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)
Pakistan: DLWLW
Sri Lanka: DWDLL

In the spotlight

Sri 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.

Team news

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.

Quotes

"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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • humi_cric on January 8, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    First session is very crucial, as the Pak batsmen have the habit of 99 all out on this ground in first inning. A. Mathews won a very good toss on this grassy pitch and cloudy weather, perfect for fast/seam bowling. All the best to both teams.

  • Cricketlover54 on January 8, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    why exactly is Pak/SL series followed closely by Indian fans? India are 0-9 quite easily the worst Asian team to perform overseas in Cricket.

  • Muhammad_farhan1229 on January 8, 2014, 5:31 GMT

    why sami aslam is not playing he is very good young tailented opner he should be in for manzoor and m.talha should be playing. misbah please play attaking cricket not defencive if u want to go to top raink ...gud luck team pakistan.....frm SWABI...

  • Ray24 on January 8, 2014, 4:35 GMT

    Khurram was run out in the first innings when he was playing quite well. He scored a lot of runs in the last series - why are there talks to drop him? On that count Hafeez should never make it to the team, ever! Shan was unrightly dropped to bring in Hafeez. For those who talk about dropping Asad Shafiq, please learn the game. Please. He was the highest scorer in the previous series. He has been the most consistent batsman along with Azhar Ali in the past three years. Just for the sake of commenting people don't realize how damaging they can be.

  • Udendra on January 8, 2014, 3:53 GMT

    Dropping Sachithra after only one match is absurd. Give him another chance and see how he goes.

  • Desihungama on January 8, 2014, 3:47 GMT

    Right thing to do is to give Khurram Manzoor another Test but replace Asad Shafique with Azhar Ali. I think that would be a strong playing eleven with rotating Anwar Ali with Bilawal Bhatti. That should be your team for the 3rd Test, at least. Good luck to both teams.

  • ajithabey on January 8, 2014, 3:23 GMT

    Hope we will have another absorbing test match as both teams are evenly matched on current performance although Sri Lanka could strengthen the spinning dept as pundits believe that Dubai pitch favours spinners. Mahela should bat lower probably after in form Chandimal and Mathews.

  • mainul079080 on January 8, 2014, 3:07 GMT

    If the pitch is a turning one than it will be a boomerang for Pakistan.Pakistan is the worst spin playing team in subcontinent (their records suggest that. You can check the record of Murali, Warne, Kumble, Herath, Tahir and Swann against Pak).Herath and Senanayeke will prove a horror to Pak. If Pakistan want to win, they have to prepare a wicket that assists pacers a bit. Abu Dhabi wicket was the best one for Paki.

  • heathrf1974 on January 7, 2014, 22:40 GMT

    Pakistan will hope for the win as they are at home. The pressure is on them.

  • dummy4fb on January 7, 2014, 21:40 GMT

    Pakistan should have won in the first Test. SL deserves credit for their fight but, its very difficult not to make comparisons with the series played 2 years ago in UAE. Pakistan were in good shape to win the first match but K Sangakarra's 200 something made it end with a draw. Pakistan went to win the next. I hope history repeats itself.

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