Several new faces likely in series opener
July 4-8, 2009
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)
The Big Picture
Over the last four months, both sides have fought mental battles to rid all memories of the horrific Lahore attack; putting the past behind you and moving on is often easier said than done, though, and it will be a deeply emotional moment whenthey take the field for the first Test. They've played against each other, of course, most recently in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 less than a fortnight ago. Pakistan won that match but the hosts will look to settle the score in a completely different format.
There's a lot of change in the air. This will be Kumar Sangakkara's first Test series as captain. Pakistan had welcomed back one rebel ICL player, Abdul Razzaq, in England and now prepare for the return of another - Mohammad Yousuf, whose presence in the middle order will be invaluable.
Sri Lanka have already suffered a setback, with their lead spinner Muttiah Muralitharan missing the Test due to a knee injury. With Chaminda Vaas not included and Lasith Malinga unfit for Tests, their bowling could be a bit weak. Their batsman, though, will be expected to continue their ominous touch from the previous series, where they piled up scores of 644 and 606.
That series was a poor advertisement for Test cricket and the conditions, on paper, cannot promise anything entirely different now. Attacking cricket is the best way to encourage results and Pakistan have the incentive to push for it. A series win will see them jump up by two slots to snatch the No.4 ranking from their opponents.
Test form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka - DDWWW
Pakistan - DDDDL
Watch out for ...
Nuwan Kulasekara: In Vaas' absence, Kulasekara will take on a new role as the pace-bowling spearhead. He remains the No.1 bowler in ODIs and it remains to be seen if he can maintain that level of consistency in the Tests. His ability to bowl a stump-to-stump line and get the ball to skid through has fetched him several wickets. A promising Test future awaits.
Mohammad Yousuf: On reputation alone, Yousuf will walk into the line-up, despite the fact that he hasn't been with the team since November, or for that matter played a first-class match for the last 13 months. Pakistan's policy on ICL returnees was to review players on a case-by-case basis but they wasted no time in netting Yousuf as soon as he made himself available.
Hit by injuries, Sri Lanka may hand out a couple of Test caps. The allrounder Angelo Mathews and offspinner Suraj Randiv could make their debuts, although Rangana Herath, the 31-year-old left-arm spinner, is a frontrunner to take Murali's place. Another likely debutant is wicketkeeper Kaushal Silva, who's filling in for the injured Prasanna Jayawardene. If Mathews plays, either Sangakkara or Tillakaratne Dilshan will have to keep - both were practising their glovework on the eve of the match. The question is whether Sangakkara is willing to take on the additional responsibility of keeping wicket and batting high up the order.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Malinda Warnapura, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Angelo Mathews / Kaushal Silva, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Rangana Herath
More debuts in store from the other camp as well. Mohammad Aamer, the 17-year-old left-arm quick, could make his Test debut along with the right-arm seamer Abdur Rauf, since Pakistan have decided not to play Abdul Razzaq and risk him bowling long spells. Pakistan are very likely to play Yousuf. They may also go in with just one specialist spinner, and should they do so, Shoaib Malik can expect to do a lot of bowling. Another possible debutant is Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner, who had a good outing in the World Twenty20.
Pakistan (likely) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Khurram Manzoor, 3 Younis Khan (capt), 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq / Faisal Iqbal, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Danish Kaneria / Saeed Ajmal, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Mohammad Aamer, 11 Abdur Rauf
Pitch and conditions
Preparations were hit by rain over the last few days but on the eve of the Test, the sun was out. The covers came off after a very long time and the outfield looks lush green.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka have never won a Test series against Pakistan at home. In five meetings since 1986, Pakistan have claimed three series, including the previous meeting in 2006 which they won 1-0.
- Pakistan trounced Sri Lanka by a massive innings and 163 runs the last time they met in Galle. Pakistan piled on four centuries and Razzaq took a hat-trick.
- Sri Lanka's only victory in a Test at home against Pakistan came in March 1986.
- Pakistan will miss the services of Mohammad Asif. In the previous Test between these two sides, in Kandy, he took 11 wickets and shot out the home side for 73 to set up the win in a low-scorer.
"The shots you play in limited-overs cricket has to change in Test cricket. You definitely have more scoring opportunities in Tests. For some reason or the other, the mindset of the batsmen changes in whites. Mental strength, physical fitness and temperament plays a big part in Test. The side that is good on these accounts will win."
Kumar Sangakkara on the transition from Twenry20 to Tests
"Rustiness is not an excuse in cricket. We hadn't played much cricket, but we won the World Twenty20. India had played a lot of cricket, but they couldn't even make it to the last four. When we played Test cricket for the first time in 13 months, our team scored 700 and I scored 300. So it all depends on how we play on the day."
Younis Khan shrugs concerns of Pakistan being short of Test practice.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo