After what turned out to be a damp squib thanks to Rawalpindi’s inclement weather conditions and bad light, the action of Pakistan vs Sri Lanka Test series now moves to the National Stadium in Karachi where both sides will not only look to seal the rubber but also gain 60 crucial ICC Test championship points. The last time Pakistan won a Test series on home soil against Sri Lanka, it was way back in 1991-92 when their current Prime Minister Imran Khan Niyazi was still leading the side. That’s how long it has been.
But, Pakistan will be buoyed by the fact that their record against Sri Lanka at the National Stadium in Karachi. In the five-Test matches played between the two sides in Karachi, the home side has won four and the only Test that ended in a draw was a high-scoring 2009 encounter where the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, and Younis Khan racked up double and triple hundreds for fun.
But, ten years later, with the series on the line, the track in Karachi is expected to be anything but a flat road. Traditionally, Karachi has aided spinners as well as skiddy fast bowlers, and it will be interesting to see how both sides shape up their playing XI for the series-decider.
There are two questions that Pakistan team-management will have to answer. Firstly, how to slot-in Fawad Alam into the playing 11. With Abid Ali scoring a hundred in his debut fixture in Rawalpindi, it is certain that Imam Ul-Haq will once again warm the bench in Karachi. But the inclusion of Fawad Alam still remains dubious.
The left-hander, who has played all his cricket in Karachi, wasn’t picked for the first Test as the management opted for Haris Sohail in favour of the veteran middle-order batsman. So, will Misbah and Co finally give Alam his much-deserved chance or will he continue to persist with Sohail, is something everyone will be watching closely?
Pakistan played an all-pace attack in Rawalpindi but with the Karachi track expected to offer assistance to the spinner and Usman Shinwari hospitalized due to fever, Yasir Shah, who was dropped in the first Test, is expected to get a look-in. But, will he or will Pakistan hand out a debut to Kashif Bhatti or will play both in tandem?
Misbah Ul-Haq gave an indication of what he and team-management are thinking when he said in the press conference that Bhatti was their reserve bowler. But, as we all know with Pakistan, anything can happen between now and the start of the match.
Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Haris Sohail/Fawad Alam, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah
Sri Lanka’s batting-unit itself with Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando opening the innings followed by Kusal Mendis, Angelo Matthews, Dinesh Chandimal and all-rounder in Dhananjaya de Silva and Dilruwan Perera. But, it is their bowling combination that would sweat the Micky Arthur-led team-management.
After Suranga Lakmal, the island nation has also lost the services of Kasun Rajitha due to hamstring injury, and with just two frontline fast bowlers left in the set-up, it will be interesting to see whether they go in with uncapped pacer Asitha Fernando or bolster their spin attack with either of Lasith Embuldeniya or Lakshan Sandakan.
Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Lahiru Thiramanne, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Dilruwan Perera, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Lasith Embuldeniya/Lakshan Sandakan/Asitha Fernando
Focus will be on
Azhar Ali [PAK]- Pakistan captain Azhar Ali will be on the spotlight in the second Test, not only as a leader but more so for his batting. The premier Pakistan batsman has been in an extended slump as far as his form in Test match cricket is concerned. In 14 Tests since January 2018, Ali has managed just 638 runs at an average of 24.53 with one hundred. The average drops to 13.44 if you consider this calendar year where he’s hobbled his way to 121 runs in five Tests with the highest score of 39.
Dilruwan Perera [SL]– Dilruwan Perera was one of the spearheads when Sri Lanka won a Test series against Pakistan in the UAE two years ago. In two Tests, Perera claimed 12 wickets at an average of 25.67. With Sri Lanka boasting of an inexperienced bowling unit and the pitch expected to favour the spinners, the onus will be on Perera to spearhead the spin-bowling department.
4- Number of Test matches won by Pakistan [out of five] against Sri Lanka in Karachi.
1991-92- The last instance when Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in a Test series at home.
2009– The last time when a Test match was played in Karachi. Incidentally, it was also between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
0- Number of Test matches won by Pakistan this calendar year. They lost 0-3 and 0-2 on their tours to South Africa and Australia respectively.
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Match Timings – 10:30 local time, 05:00 AM GMT, 10 AM IST
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