Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan: Test Series Preview

Pakistan tour the Island nation for the first time since 2015 to play two crucial World Test Championship fixtures.

As Pakistan tours Sri Lanka after a period of seven years, the tour itinerary comprises of two Test matches. The first Test is to be played at the historic Galle Cricket Stadium, while we move to Colombo for game two.

Having touched down in Sri Lanka last Thursday, Pakistan have had plenty of time to prepare, including a three-day tour game. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are coming on the back of a 1-1 drawn series versus Australia. The two Tests, in Galle and Colombo, are vital to both teams, counting toward the prized World Test Championship 2021-2023.

Venues

The series kickstarts on Saturday, July 16, at Galle. Historically, the venue is one of Sri Lanka’s strengths, reflected by their win/loss ratio of 2.00. On Monday, Sri Lanka completed a stunning innings win over Australia at the venue, as their spinners starred yet again. The toss is due to play a vital role at Galle, as supported by recent figures.

Teams batting first at the venue have won 21 out of 39 games, while only 12 wins have come for teams chasing. The statistics reflect exactly that, with batting in the fourth innings being significantly more challenging. This is further proven by the fact that spin bowlers have excelled on the ground post-day 3. Both teams will look to win the toss and likely bat first.

The second game is scheduled to be played at the P. Sara Stadium, Colombo. Pakistan’s record at the venue does not promise much, with just one win out of five games. The last occasion a Test match was hosted at the venue was back in 2019, as New Zealand eased past Sri Lanka. In contrast to Galle, the toss may not be a decisive factor, with wins evenly distributed among sides batting first and chasing.  

Pakistan

Squad

Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah

Overview

On the back of a rather disappointing 1-0 series loss at home to Australia, Pakistan are eager to make amends and leave an impression as they build up towards the latter stages of the WTC. The visitors have named a strong 18-member Test squad, with the highlight being the recall of leg spinner Yasir Shah. The addition of spin-bowling all-rounder Salman Ali Agha further bolsters the spin-bowling department – an area of clear concern in recent times.

Despite a few shortcomings with the bat recently, the Pakistani batters have had a terrific World Test Championship thus far, with skipper Babar Azam leading from the front. The others, too, have enjoyed success, with Abdullah Shafique being the talk of the town. The young right-hander ticks all the boxes and plays spin well. In challenging conditions, Pakistan will certainly look towards the experienced pair of Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam to come good, as they often have in crunch situations.

On the bowling front, Yasir Shah is expected to play a pivotal role for the visitors. The 36-year-old’s last Test match was back in August 2021, about a year ago. His numbers in Sri Lanka, particularly in Galle, make for great reading. Yasir’s showings will depend greatly on Nauman Ali, who is expected to provide the leg-spinner with control from the other end.

Pakistan’s balance of the side is unclear, although they do have a locked top six, barring any unforeseen surprises. Shaheen Afridi, who has done terrifically in the WTC (37 wickets at 18.02), will likely be paired with Hasan Ali. An interesting tossup between Faheem Ashraf and Salman Ali Agha will possibly arise, with the latter more likely to play given the nature of the surfaces.

Likely XI

  1. Abdullah Shafique
  2. Imam-ul-Haq
  3. Azhar Ali
  4. Babar Azam (c)
  5. Fawad Alam
  6. Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
  7. Salman Ali Agha/Faheem Ashraf
  8. Nauman Ali
  9. Yasir Shah
  10. Hasan Ali
  11. Shaheen Afridi

Sri Lanka

Squad

Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Ramesh Mendis, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, Prabath Jayasuriya, Dunith Wellalage, Jeffrey Vandersay

Overview

The hosts will be in good stead, having thumped Australia by an innings and 39 runs in Galle – their first-ever innings victory versus Australia in Tests. The star of the show was an unlikely one: thirty-year-old Prabath Jayasuriya. The left-armer was drafted in for the second Test, owing to three members of the squad testing Covid positive.

Jayasuriya thrived in both innings of the game, picking up a twelve-wicket match haul. His match figures of 12 for 177 are the best for a Sri Lankan on debut and the fourth best overall. Ramesh Mendis, too, has had an impactful WTC with 26 wickets at a tad under 29. Asitha Fernando, who was ruled out with Covid, could likely slot back in to support fellow pacer Kasun Rajitha, who impressed versus Australia.

The batting department, on the other hand, looks fairly settled with Dimuth Karunaratne in top form. The real bright spot, however, has been the form of Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews. Chandimal’s stunning 206* in the second innings of the Galle Test was a sign of relief for the right-hander, who has shown his resurgence with the bat in recent times.

Mathews, too, has stepped up to support Karunaratne and Chandimal. His showings with the bat on tough surfaces in Bangladesh in May led Sri Lanka to a memorable 1-0 series win. Alongside the experienced trio, the likes of Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis have also chipped in with notable contributions.

If Dhananjaya de Silva and Pathum Nissanka have recovered, they will likely slot back into the mix. In their absence, however, Sri Lanka are expected to retain Kamindu Mendis and Oshada Fernando in the side.

Likely XI

  1. Dimuth Karunaratne (c)
  2. Pathum Nissanka
  3. Kusal Mendis
  4. Angelo Mathews
  5. Dinesh Chandimal
  6. Dhananjaya de Silva
  7. Niroshan Dickwella (wk)
  8. Ramesh Mendis
  9. Prabath Jayasuriya
  10. Kasun Rajitha
  11. Asitha Fernando

Expectations

With both sides eager to win precious WTC points, expect this to be an absolute cracker of a contest. Sri Lanka are currently placed third on the WTC table, with Pakistan at fourth. Pakistan will look to get back to winning ways to climb the ladder, while Sri Lanka will hope to carry over the momentum from the win against Australia.

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