Sri Lanka eye elusive Test series win

Sri Lanka are determined to prevent a Pakistan resurgence as they seek their first Test series win in three years when the second match starts in Colombo on Saturday.

By (AFP)

Published: Thu 28 Jun 2012, 1:54 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:09 AM

The hosts will start as firm favourites at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) after thumping Pakistan by 209 runs with a day to spare in the first Test in Galle to take the lead in the three-match series.

Sri Lanka have not won a Test series since defeating New Zealand 2-0 at home in August 2009 and have struggled to make an impact after world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan quit the five-day format in 2010.

The islanders have lost five series and drawn three since the success against New Zealand — twice allowing the opposition to bounce back after winning the opening encounter.

In 2010, Sri Lanka beat India in the first match in Galle — Muralitharan’s final Test appearance — before losing the third game at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo.

Then in March-April this year, the hosts triumphed over England at Galle, only to see Andrew Strauss’ men win the second and final Test at the P. Sara Oval and retain their number one ranking.

Veteran skipper Mahela Jayawardene was wary of slipping on the proverbial banana skin again.

“We have to be positive,” he said. “There are two more matches to go and we need to put the Galle match behind and keep improving. We need to be a lot more consistent with bowling, batting and fielding.

“A lot of hard work is required going into the next Test. We need to handle the conditions at SSC very well. We need to try and get on top of the opposition and keep the pressure.”

The SSC has proved a happy hunting ground for Sri Lanka, where they have not lost a Test since 2004, and have won six of their last 11 matches.

The hosts are likely to play an unchanged side unless seamer Nuwan Pradeep, who took one wicket in Galle, is replaced by either Thisara Perera or Dilhara Fernando.

Fernando was drafted into the squad for the second Test in place of left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara, who missed the Galle match due to a shoulder injury and was subsequently ruled out for the rest of the series.

Pakistan, meanwhile, will welcome back captain Misbah-ul Haq, who was banned for the Galle Test after his team’s slow over-rate during the final one-dayer in Colombo on June 18.

The tourists need Misbah’s calming influence as skipper and also his presence in the middle-order after they were shot out for 100 and 300 in Galle on a spin-friendly pitch.

Pakistan were let down by poor umpiring at Galle — the Decision Review System (DRS) is not being used in the series — but they have themselves to blame for their first defeat in 10 Tests.

The batting failed spectacularly in the first innings and only veteran Younis Khan (87) and young Asad Shafiq (80) provided any real resistance in the second.

Mohammad Hafeez, who led Pakistan in Misbah’s absence, said the second innings performance in Galle gave him confidence the tourists would do well in the remaining two Tests.

“I liked the way the boys fought it out on the last day when the conditions were tough,” he said. “These are positive signs for the team. All is not lost yet.”

Pakistan will once again bank on their spinners, who claimed 11 of the 14 Sri Lankan wickets to fall to the bowlers at Galle, with prolific off-spinner Saeed Ajmal picking up seven in the match.

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