Struggling Pakistan look for second wind
Match factsThursday, January 16 - January 20, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0600 GMT)
Big PictureAs 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)
Sri Lanka: WDWDL
In the spotlightDimuth 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 conditionsThe 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 newsPakistan 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.
Quotes"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