Sri Lanka search for historic series win
July 12-16, 2009
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)
The Big Picture
Two hours of poor batting undid three days of excellent work for Pakistan in the first Test in Galle, and they now have the onerous task of needing to win two back-to-back Tests to take the series, or win one and draw the other to ensure their record of not losing a series in Sri Lanka remains intact. For Sri Lanka, on the other hand, it was a fantastic result, considering the match situation going into the fourth day and the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan. The momentum is with the home team, but no international side is more unpredictable than Pakistan, and Kumar Sangakkara will be wary of a backlash as he searches for a series win in his first attempt as captain.
The end result was bitterly disappointing for Pakistan, but they can take heart from the fact that their bowlers restricted the home team's formidable batting line-up to less than 300 in both innings in Galle. The batting, though, presents more problems, especially at the top of the order. That's been a worry for a long time for Pakistan, and neither Salman Butt nor Khurram Manzoor inspired much confidence in the first Test. A three-Test series leaves little time for a comeback, and Pakistan need to believe they can still extricate themselves from the hole they are in.
The Sri Lankans are in a happier situation, but they were lucky that their batting lapses in both innings didn't cost them the game. Despite several big names in the line-up, the batting has been patchy of late, and the P Sara Oval presents an opportunity for Sangakkara and Co to repay the debt they owe the bowlers, who were quite outstanding in a high-pressure situation on the fourth day in Galle. The absence of Murali remains a worry for the home team - and an opportunity for Pakistan to exploit - despite the poise with which Rangana Herath filled that gap in the first Test.
Test form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka - WDDWW
Pakistan - LDDDD
Watch out for ...
Ajantha Mendis: In his only previous Test here, against India last year, Mendis took 8 for 137, including a five-for in the first innings. He hasn't been at the top of his game lately, but with Murali absent, this will be the perfect moment for him to step up again.
Kumar Sangakkara: In six previous Tests at this ground, Sangakkara has scored 548 runs at an average of 78.28. His last three innings here read 200 not out, 144 and 4. He had a quiet game with the bat in Galle, but his past record here, coupled with the opportunity to seal his first Test series win as captain, could inspire him on to greater deeds here.
Younis Khan: Pakistan's captain had a disappointing match too in Galle, scoring 25 and 3, and offering little support to Mohammad Yousuf. Younis has usually led from the front, and if past performances in crunch games is any indicator, expect him to get a truckload of runs over the next five days.
Both teams are undecided on their playing XI. The only question Sri Lanka need to answer is the wicketkeeping issue: Tillakaratne Dilshan was adequate in Galle, but he was also helped by the fact that Pakistan didn't bat very long. Murali's absence means they'll probably go in with five bowlers, with Dilshan most likely to keep wickets again.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Malinda Warnapura, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan (wk), 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Thilan Thushara, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
There was also much criticism in Pakistan over the exclusion of Fawad Alam and Abdul Razzaq from the squad, and one quick-fix solution for the second Test could be to open with Shoaib Malik, drop a regular opener, and fit in either Alam or Razzaq. The rest of the bowling attack will probably remain the same, but Pakistan will need a much better display from Umar Gul, who returned figures of 2 for 107 from 24 overs in the first Test.
Pakistan (likely) 1 Salman Butt/ Khurram Manzoor, 2 Shoaib Malik, 3 Younis Khan (capt), 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Kamran Akmal (wk), 7 Fawad Alam/ Abdul Razzaq, 8 Abdur Rauf, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Mohammad Aamer, 11 Saeed Ajmal.
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch at the P Sara is hard and has a bit of grass on it, and should have good bounce. Spinners have traditionally done well at this ground, and they can look forward to some assistance from the track from the fourth day onwards.
It has been hot, humid and mostly cloudless over the past three days, but the forecast is for rain over the next week.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka have won their last four Tests at the P Sara Oval, though two of those were against Bangladesh. Their overall record here is six wins and two losses, one of which was against Pakistan in 1994.
- Pakistan have won and drawn once each against Sri Lanka here, but their last Test at this ground was against Australia in 2002, which they lost by 41 runs.
- Mahela Jayawardene has only scored one century in eight innings at this venue, and his average is a relatively modest 42.42.
- Fast bowlers average 35.11 per wicket in the seven Tests at this ground since 2000, with only three five-wicket hauls. Spinners have done better, averaging 30.97 for their 100 wickets, with six five-fors.
"If you see the history of Pakistan cricket, if we have lost one match we come back in a very big way. I have enough confidence in these boys, that they have the courage and the character to come back."
Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach
"When you win one, you always have that edge for the next game, but it's a new Test and a new start. What happened a week ago will really not matter when the first ball is bowled."
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo