Because of the flat quality of the pitch at the SSC in Colombo, spin testing may be reduced.
Big Picture: Another test for Pakball
What are you going to do? What are you going to do when they come for you? Bazooka, Bazooka..
Yes, even this – a preview of a Sri Lanka-Pakistan Test – is not immune to Bazball’s comments. In my defense, this is far from a painful reference. Pakball (or, more officially, the Pakistan Way), Bazball’s slightly less exciting cousin, is definitely real, and we need to talk about it.
To summarize, Pakistan had not won a Test match in a year, during which time they were enveloped by a kind of cricket that can only be characterized as… woah, sorry, dozed off for a minute there… played against a Sri Lankan squad that has had just one means of winning Tests at home in recent years – playing solely in Galle.
To be honest, the stage was set perfectly for a Galle classic, complete with rain, a tenacious rearguard by the visiting side, and a final-day Prabath Jayasuriya-led capitulation. But the original agents of instability, Pakistan, did not play by the rules. To be true, they hadn’t followed it either last year or last year, but the 2022 victory was more typical.
Sri Lanka had no response. Sure, Jayasuriya got some more wickets, but he might admit they were the least fun he’s ever had in Galle. Pakistan batted at four an over for the whole of the Test, playing truly thrilling cricket, while fans on both sides were left perplexed by what they were experiencing.
So we’re looking ahead to the second Test at the SSC, where the challenges by spin are likely to be lower and the hitters may be able to bat even more freely. Pakistan will almost doubt be eager to test their new mindset, while Sri Lanka will concentrate on the areas where they know they need to improve.
After all, despite Pakistan’s strategy, there is no explanation for numerous Sri Lankan batsmen’ lack of application, while the discrepancy in fielding between the two sides may have been the single most critical element in determining the first Test.
Sri Lanka LWWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Kusal Mendis and Saud Shakeel
Each team has a player who both frustrates and excites fans, and Sri Lanka has that man and then some in Kusal Mendis. Which is quite a statement given that he has scored 140 and 245 in his last four Test innings. But then you see figures like 12 and 18 in his previous two, and you get why he’s so frustrated. Mendis is a natural talent who has been groomed for greatness at a young age. He is now in his peak at the age of 28. Both he and Sri Lanka must ensure that such resources are put to good use.
Six Tests in, Saud Shakeel has an average of 90.88, and it would have been higher had he remained unbeaten throughout Pakistan’s victorious pursuit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he increased that average to triple digits by the end of this tour, as Pakistan appear to have discovered a player with a unique combination of versatility and application. Shakeel, like Mendis, is entering his prime at the age of 27. Sri Lanka would have their job cut out for them if he is as obstinate and belligerent in Colombo as he was in Galle.
Team news: Asitha Fernando available
Sri Lanka are poised to make one alteration, with Asitha Fernando returning after recovering from dengue sickness. Dilshan Madushanka is another option if Sri Lanka wants to add some pace to their lineup.
Sri Lanlka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Nishan Madushka, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal Dhananjaya de Silva, No. 6 Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Ramesh Mendis, Prabath Jayasuriya, Asitha Fernando, Vishwa Fernando/Kasun Rajitha/Dilshan Madushanka, 11 Vishwa Fernando/Kasun Rajitha/Dilshan Madushanka
Pakistan (probable): 1 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Shan Masood, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, 6 Agha Salman, 7 Noman Ali/Hasan Ali, No. 8 Naseem Shah (9), Abrar Ahmed (10), and Shaheen Shah Afridi (11)
Pitch and conditions
The SSC pitch is known to turn on days four and five, but it will be better for batting early on. In terms of weather, rain is forecast for all five days of the Test, though not likely enough to prevent a result.
Stats and trivia
- The SSC is hosting its first Test match since 2018. Sri Lanka has won three and lost three of the last six Tests played at this venue.
- At the SSC, neither team’s active bowlers have taken a wicket.
- Saud Shakeel is 182 runs short of 1000 Test runs. If he hits the milestone in this Test, he will be the fastest Pakistani player to do so (by innings
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