Junaid and Wahab defy flat track
Junaid Khan, the Pakistan fast bowler, has said that having Wahab Riaz at the other end provided him with the perfect partner to hurt Sri Lanka. He said that Wahab's fearsome bowling from the other end helped him to counter the dead first-day pitch at the SSC. Wahab took the place of the inexperienced Mohammad Talha, and his express pace provided an added dimension to the attack.
Wahab had a five-for on Test debut at The Oval in 2010 against England but faded away a year later. Since 2011, he has been out of the Test equation but Junaid Khan said a legendary fast bowler like Waqar Younis, who took over as national coach in May, knew exactly how to get the best out of a pacer.
Waqar once said Wahab is "wayward, but indeed a genuine pacer", adding that he was someone Pakistan should have in the team. On the first day at SSC, Wahab made a small but powerful impact to revive his stop-start career. Defying the typically docile nature of the SSC track, Wahab and Junaid posed plenty of problems for Sri Lanka - Wahab finished the day with slightly expensive figures of 3 for 66 while Junaid had 4 for 69.
"The wicket was dead," Junaid said, after the first day's play. "We knew we had to be disciplined on such a track, otherwise we would be punished, but the combination with Wahab proved exceptional as I was depending on swing and he was pushing with pace. He was regularly threatening the batsman, allowing me to get the best out of it from the other end.
"We earlier had a conventional plan to go and block runs on such a pitch but in the second session we shifted to an attacking mode to push the Sri Lanka batsmen to the back foot and the plan worked well. Although we weren't able to get all the 10 wickets, tomorrow morning our first target is to get them as soon as possible, under 300 runs, to remain on top."
Junaid said the presence of Waqar in the dressing room is something that is a big motivator. Wahab's best bowling also came during Waqar's reign as head coach in his previous stint. "He is a legend and the whole world recognises him. In his previous stint as coach he had the same bunch of bowlers and he just started right from where he left [in 2011]. Whatever the case is, he himself has been a fast bowler with vast experience under his belt which is actually the factor benefitting us."
Pakistan had lost the Galle Test despite four evenly matched days of mostly dour cricket on a pitch that had nothing for the bowlers. Junaid insisted the difference between Galle and SSC is the difference of the spirit as Pakistan, being already one down in the series, need to win this game. "We are here to win and that's the only difference, otherwise pitches are almost same. We are positive and when you think positive, things automatically go your way.
"We are satisfied with the day's play and have reduced Sri Lanka [to eight-down] under 300, that will give our batsman ample confidence when they come out to bat. I know our batters didn't do well in the second innings at Galle but these are the same batsmen who had scored 450 runs in the first innings. So I am not worried about our batsmen, they are good and being a bowler we have done our work."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson