Seven days ago, the Sri Lankan team took to the field against Pakistan with some fair odds stacked against them. Consequential to a dismal tour of India where they were blown away 9-0 in all formats of the game and an unimpressive loss against Zimbabwe in an ODI series, not much was expected from them. After Graham Ford quit as head coach,the team was being led temporarily by a very frustrated Nick Pothas and captain Dinesh Chandimal, who failed to keep a winning streak. They were about to face Pakistan in a Two-Test series at UAE, where Pakistan had yet to lose a test series.
When one was doubtless in how the match against Pakistan would play out Sri Lanka was brewing plans otherwise. Despite the unpredictable nature of the matches where the two team face off, Sri Lanka pulled through and defeated Pakistan in the first test at Abu Dhabi with one of the best finishes. In an unprecedented defeat Pakistan was beaten in their fortress. Since Pakistan shifted to UAE, they’ve been undefeated against England and Australia in eight Tests. For Sri Lanka to beat them, it was monstrous. Sri Lanka were at their weakest, even more so without their talisman Angelo Mathews. But they delivered a knockout punch to wash away Pakistan’s spotless record.
Dubai at Night
So begins the tail of the second Test in Dubai. This will be the second day-night test played at the venue. And if Pakistan are unable to grab a win, Sri Lanka will be the first team to beat Pakistan in a test series at UAE.
The tactically feasibility is imminent despite Pakistan coming into this series as favorites. Not because they were doing anything special themselves, it was due to the horrendous state of the opposition. The batting collapse for Pakistan is not something new, but without Misbah and Younis it leaves them even more vulnerable than ever. Losing the toss and bowling first didn’t bode well for Pakistan and a 4th innings chase is never a walk in the park. Some dub this as a transition phase senior players like, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and the captain himself Sarfraz Ahmed but the verdict is that they must step up.
For Sri Lanka, their interim coach Nick Pothas has been very clear that this is a good chance to rebuild after hitting rock bottom in India. Their captain will be on a confidence high after his well fought 155 in the first test. Rangana Herath continues to torment batsmen, having nothing to prove now having joined the elite 400 wickets club, not that he had anything to prove even before that.
This is a test that really matters for teams. Both of them are looking to rebuild and have youngsters looking to cement their place in the squad. Pakistan will have a seventh place in the rankings if they fail to win this match, their lowest since October 2010. Last year this time, they were No. 1
Who to look out for
Pakistan didn’t have much that to ponder on in the first Test, except for Haris Sohail. On his debut, he made 76 and 34. Both the times he walked in, his team was in dire need of a stable knock.
His importance cannot be overlooked, even though he had been missing from the international stage for quite a while, he played with grit and concentration for a long spell, something he was lacking a year ago. Batting smartly with the tail in the first innings and a 42-run in the partnership with his captain in the second innings almost guided Pakistan to victory. There is a middle order wanting to be filled in the Pakistan line up and Haris has the perfect opportunity in Dubai to build on his strong start.
For Sri Lanka things are not much different. Kusal Mendis, Kaushal Silva and Lahiru Thirmane all had a disappointing outing in Abu Dhabi. Sri Lanka will be dependent on their lower order to bail them out of tricky situations. Niroshan Dickwella had a brilliant game. But with wicket keeping responsibilities already on him, Sri Lanka wouldn’t want to burden him. Not all left hand wicket keepers can be the same.
Pakistan are likely to continue with the 1 spinner and 3 quicks combination. Wahab Riaz would be a probability to replace Hasan Ali who will miss out due to back trouble.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Sami Aslam, 2 Shan Masood, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Babar Azam, 6 Haris Sohail, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 8 Mohammad Amir, 9 Yasir Shah, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Abbas
Sri Lanka were given a huge blow when Angelo Mathews was ruled out for the second Test as well with a calf injury. Lahiru Thirimanne joins him on the sidelines with a back injury, with Sadeera Samarawickrama likely to replace him.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Kaushal Silva, 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dilruwan Perera, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Nuwan Pradeep