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The Preview by Karthik Krishnaswamy
August 13, 2014
Arnold: Jayawardene's self belief set him apart
Match factsAugust 14-18, 2014
Big PictureThe umbrellas went up in Galle almost as soon as Angelo Mathews had swatted away the winning runs for Sri Lanka. Making their way back to the dressing room as the drizzle intensified, Pakistan's players must have wondered how on earth they lost the Test match after scoring 451 in the first innings. Whether it was their Test-match rustiness or an outcome of over-caution in their second innings, Pakistan simply didn't maintain their standard of play over five days. Against a team as buoyant as Mathews' Sri Lanka, you cannot afford to do that.
Over the following days, Pakistan's spirits were further dampened by news of Saeed Ajmal being reported for a suspect action. It is a cliche that Pakistan are at their most dangerous when they have their backs to the wall, but Misbah-ul-Haq's team will have to believe in that old cornered tigers line as it tries to square the series at the SSC. After a quietly impressive climb up the Test rankings under Misbah, Pakistan are in danger of dropping from third to sixth if they lose the series.
Beating this Sri Lankan side, at a notoriously difficult venue for wicket-taking, will be a difficult ask. More so when they face a team that will want to give its most-capped player a fitting farewell at his favourite venue. Mahela Jayawardene will play his 149th and final Test match, and Sri Lankan cricket will never quite be the same again without those silken drives and late cuts from their No. 4.
While filling the Mahela-shaped hole will be a headache in the long-term, Sri Lanka aren't without more immediate issues to sort out. The opening combination isn't yet settled, and a recall for Dimuth Karunaratne suggests the team management aren't quite convinced by Upul Tharanga. All three of their first-choice fast bowlers are battling one niggle or another, and a new-ball combination of Dhammika Prasad and Chanaka Welegedara doesn't look the most convincing, on paper.
Pakistan's batsmen will need to put pressure on Sri Lanka's bowlers, and not let Rangana Herath in particular get on top of them. There is a growing feeling among followers of Pakistan cricket that the formula that led to the team's rise under Misbah - of cautious batting and run-strangling by spin - is in need of change, and that the natural style of their younger batsmen such as Ahmed Shehzad should be given more space to express itself. A flat batting track and an injury-hit attack will afford Pakistan the opportunity to try and appease their fans. Whether they do so or not remains to be seen.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlightIt is fitting that Mahela Jayawardene's final Test match was moved from the P Sara Oval to the Sinhalese Sports Club, where he has scored more runs than anyone else has at any other ground in the known universe. He has scored 11 centuries at the SSC in 26 Tests, and nothing in his recent form suggests he won't finish off with another, for old times' sake.
He will play the second Test, but it remains to be seen what Saeed Ajmal's state of mind will be, having been reported for a suspect action after the first Test. Pakistan will desperately want his action cleared when he undergoes testing, but before that will want him at his best at the SSC if they have any chance of squaring the series. Judging by the disparity between Ajmal's figures in Galle - 5 for 195 in 65.1 overs - and those of the rest of the attack - 7 for 418 in 114.2 overs - Pakistan's bowling will look a lot less threatening without its banker-cum-magician.
Sri Lanka could make up to three changes, mostly due to fitness concerns. Eranga has been ruled out* with a hip injury, and left-armer Welegedara is likely to take his place. Kithuruwan Vithanage has a finger injury, and Lahiru Thirimanne could come in for him if he isn't fit enough to play. Sri Lanka also recalled opener Dimuth Karunaratne in the lead-up, and he could come in for Upul Tharanga, who has been inconsistent since his return to the Test side.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne/Upul Tharanga, 2 Kaushal Silva, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Kithuruwan Vithanage/Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Chanaka Welegedara
Pakistan's batting fell away on the fifth day in Galle, and it was a collective failure after a promising display in the first innings. It's unlikely there will be too many changes, but Shan Masood could replace the inconsistent Khurram Manzoor at the top of the order.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Khurram Manzoor/Shan Masood, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Mohammad Talha, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch at the SSC is expected to be hard but quite flat, with Mathews saying that he expected less help for the spinners than it had provided during the Test match against South Africa late last month. It has been raining quite frequently in Colombo, mostly at night, and the weather could eat into playing time, just as it did against South Africa.
Stats and trivia
"If you take the last five or six games that we've played, we've played some really good cricket and it went down to the last over more often than not. We've been playing pretty good cricket."
Angelo Mathews on Sri Lanka's recent run of thrilling Test finishes
"Every game is a new game regardless of what happened in the previous game so we are looking forward to win this one to level the series and spoil Mahela's party."
Misbah-ul-Haq reckons Pakistan can recover from their first-Test loss
* August 13, 2014 3.30pm GMT: This preview was updated after SLC announced that Eranga had not recovered from his injury
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Karthik Krishnaswamy
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