Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele July 7, 2012

Rain a factor in 'lively' Pallekele


Match facts

July 8-July 12, Pallekele
Start time 1000 (0430 GMT)

Big Picture

Sri Lanka in June and July is greener, even more beautiful and the lush hills form a stunning backdrop to the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, the host of two rain-affected Tests. The third one starting on Sunday, after some menacing rain the day before, will be lucky to get away unscathed. Amid the inevitable concerns about the weather this time of the year, there remains the promise of a more "sporting" pitch at this venue, the unforgiving SSC having yet again shown its contempt for bowlers.

Led by Junaid Khan, Pakistan were able to trouble the Sri Lanka batsmen on that SSC highway and though he got support from the left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, the pace and discipline of Umar Gul, who was out with an ankle injury, was missed. While Pakistan's batting improved markedly at the SSC, albeit on one of the world's best batting surfaces, their bowlers will be under added pressure to force a result that would deprive Sri Lanka of their first Test series win in nine attempts.

Sri Lanka, though better-placed in the series, should, presumably, be rankled by constant reminders of the influence Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and even Lasith Malinga had on their Test fortunes. That point is made each time they lose or draw a Test, and walking away unblemished with a series win will mark a turn of the page, a sign of having moved on, at least to some of their detractors if not themselves.

In Suraj Randiv and Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka have a potent spin combination for home Tests. They bat deep enough, though without Chanaka Welegedera their pace department needs a boost. Nuwan Pradeep has pace, but has proved ineffective, leaving Nuwan Kulasekara with a big burden. It is here that Pakistan have traditionally been superior, and that being the case in this series as well gives them a good chance.

Form guide

Sri Lanka: DWLWL (most recent first)
Pakistan: DLWWW

Watch out for...

Thilan Samaraweera: Samaraweera's solidity has served Sri Lanka tremendously over the years but he's experiencing a blip after a prolific first-class season. His last seven Test innings have yielded just one half-century. Two of his three dismissals in this series have come after remaining padded up for long spells in the dressing room; he'll want a long enough spell in the middle to end a rare run of underachievement.

Under greater pressure is opener Tharanga Paranavitana with scores of 24, 25, 0 and 32 in his last four Test innings. He's got starts but that's not encouraging enough when still competing for an opening slot.

Taufeeq Umar: It was Taufeeq who got the Pakistan innings rolling at the SSC, his attacking approach a contrast to a subdued Mohammad Hafeez, who only opened up much later. Taufeeq confidently drove on the up and dominated through the off side, before throwing it away with a century there for the taking. He responded with a fluent, unbeaten 42 in the second innings, and looks good to keep a successful opening partnership going.

Pitch and conditions

Mahela Jayawardene reckons the track in Pallekele will "definitely" be "livelier" than the SSC, but will the weather play spoilsport? There are showers forecast; this, after what seemed a pleasant and calm lead-up to the Test was interrupted by a heavy bout of rain on Saturday. While Sri Lanka had a chance to train in the morning, Pakistan did not. At the press conference, Angelo Mathews said he noticed a greenish tinge on the track and expected bounce and movement.

The inaugural Test at this venue in 2010 included just 103.3 overs with two full days being washed out. Ryan Harris was among the wickets here in 2011, but frequent interruptions due to rain meant the teams had to settle for a draw, with Australia feeling hard done by in the end.

Team news

Pakistan have gone the diplomatic way by saying they'll keep all options open. Aizaz Cheema and Saeed Ajmal were the weak links in the bowling attack at the SSC. Gul, if fit, should return to bolster the attack but there's also Mohammad Sami in the squad, waiting for a chance. He bowled with pace and venom in the limited-overs games, and it remains to be seen what Pakistan do with him.

Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Umar Gul, 9 Junaid Khan, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Abdur Rehman.

Sri Lanka could consider leaving out the off-colour Pradeep and replacing him with Dilhara Fernando or the all-round option of Thisara Perera.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Suraj Randiv, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Dilhara Fernando.

Stats and trivia

  • Rangana Herath is three away from 150 wickets in Tests. He's played the most Tests for a Sri Lankan specialist spinner after Muralitharan - 39, after Murali's 132. Kumar Dharmasena is the third specialist spinner on the list.
  • Taufeeq Umar is 90 away from reaching 3000 runs in Tests.
  • The Pakistan XI that played the SSC Test was more a gang of senior citizens in comparison to the Pakistan team that took on New Zealand more than 10 years ago in 2002. The average age of the current team is 33, back then it was 25.72.


"As far as I am concerned nobody is out of form, actually. The guys have been getting starts but we are professionals. It's not a major concern. We need to show confidence in individuals."
Angelo Mathews

"The batsmen took the responsibility and the bowlers did their part and the momentum will be there for us."
Mohammad Hafeez

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lalith on July 9, 2012, 22:19 GMT

    Win the toss bat first that is the way to go.

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2012, 2:15 GMT

    Thisara perera should be given an opportunity in place of Suraj Randiv and make a 3 man pace attack on a lively pitch, I am not too sure if Paranavithana can continue as an opener as he hasn't done any thing at all to justify his position,perhaps we can try with Dimuth karunarathna or Upul Tharanga..i don't mind giving a go to Chandimal to see how he handles at the top of the order as he's a no 3 batsman,

    I suggest keep Thirimanne to replace Thilan Samaraweera in the near future as he handles the pressure very well in the middle order being a youngster.

  • R. on July 8, 2012, 1:55 GMT

    I agree with Johnathonjoseph 100%. SL SHOULD drop Paranavitana and Pradeep and bring in Chandimal and Tissara. SL says they have to stick with the young players in order to cultivate future stars, which is a good thing, but aren't they taking it a bit too far? Yes, a player has to get a fair chance to prove himself but the question is how much of a chance should he get? Sticking with a player just for the sake of giving chances for a long period of time is not good for the team nor is it fair to the other players who have proven themselves. When a player doesn't pull his weight it drags the whole team down and that's not fair in the long run.

    As for the openers slot, SL should experiment with promoting other players Here's a crazy idea - promote Herath as an opener. He's done it before. But SL is always play it safe and afraid to go out of their comfort zone. As far as I'm concerned Tissara Perera SHOULD be in the team, given his all round abilities.

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2012, 1:47 GMT

    pradeep should be given another chanse.and pallekelle is a fast track. chandimal is better option than paranawithana

  • shahid on July 7, 2012, 23:15 GMT

    Hafiz will be a failure again as he has been for a long time. Scoring big at SSC is of no use and counts for nothing. All his centuries (not many) have been against Zim or Bangladesh prior to SSC. Afaq Rahim should be given a chance to show his worth. Umar Gul is another overrated fellow who hasn't performed for some 7-8 innings. After 44 tests he is still without a 10 wicket match. Sami's pace could do a trick here and he will put some extra effort too as this match will also decide his future once again.

  • Ryo on July 7, 2012, 22:41 GMT

    @Rajmalla: Pak hasn't lost a Test in less than 4 days play approaching 2 years. That's why they've been successful. They've only lost 2 Tests in the last 22 months, that includes the first game of this series.

  • Johnathon on July 7, 2012, 22:13 GMT

    Sri Lanka need only two changes for a perfect team. Its simple, drop Paranavitana and Nuwan Pradeep who have both done nothing. Bring in Chandimal and Thissara Perera. Does that mean Chandimal will open? No. A daring, yet brilliant idea is to promote Perera to the top of the order. This man can bat (averages 32 in first class cricket) and if he gets going, he can give Sri Lanka an amazing start. His bowling will also improve and on the long run it will be a very beneficial move for Sri Lanka.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2012, 20:39 GMT

    @ English Cricket I feel sorry for England and Aussie they seem to only have matches between the two countries. More so thian SL play India I must say.

    Give Nuwan Pradeep a chance on a green top without playing politics, everyone knew SSC was a batting paradise and if they played Dilhara he would have looked no better than Nuwan. Nuwan could become our next spear heard. Dilhara on the other hand would be a waste even if he picks up wickets he has shown he is never consistent and can't field at all. If you play Thisara I won't be complaining cause at least he has a future.

  • Fez on July 7, 2012, 19:06 GMT

    This series has done nothing to increase people's interest in Test Cricket. Poor umpiring and poor weather have not only ruined the series, but also gives a completely wrong image of the two team's performance. There is no way the scoreline should say 1-0 against Pakistan after two matches. And as the chances are, the third test might also be affected by rain, and SL may win the series 1-0, thanks to the worst possible umpiring in the first match and the rain in remaining two.

  • R on July 7, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    Most of the time Pakistani bowlers need only 3 days to win and Pakistani batsmen need only 3 days to loose. Despite rain threat there will be a result. enjoy :)

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