x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Gul targets top three Sri Lanka batsmen

Abu Dhabi wicket 'supportive' for fast bowlers and could provide early assistance.

Umar Gul has not played a Test since May.
Umar Gul has not played a Test since May.

ABU DHABI // Umar Gul said that his Pakistan side can target frailties in Sri Lanka's batting line-up as the sides prepare for the opening Test at the Zayed Cricket Stadium this morning.

Gul, Pakistan's most senior fast bowler, is expected to open the attack with Wahab Riaz. He sees opportunities beyond the established duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

"I think Sri Lanka don't have too many top players apart from Mahela, Sangakkara and [Tillakaratne] Dilshan, so if we get their top order quickly, and that's what we are going to target, we can get them for low scores," Gul said.

His confidence stems from Sri Lanka's heavy reliance on the trio - and Angelo Mathews - in their last two series against England and Australia, both of which they lost. It is also the result of some unexpected grass still on the surface, and a feeling that there could be some early assistance for the fast bowlers.

"Conditions are almost the same for both teams, but the wicket does look supportive for fast bowlers," Gul said.

Gul and Riaz were rested for Pakistan's last Test assignment, in Zimbabwe, and have not played much long-form cricket since the May series in the West Indies.

Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, is confident that rustiness will not be an issue. "We're professionals and we have to get used to these conditions quickly," he said.

Pakistan's main quandary will be the formation of their attack. If the grass remains, they could consider three pacemen and Saeed Ajmal, with Mohammad Hafeez providing a handy spin option.

In last year's Test series against South Africa here, they played with two fast bowlers and two spinners. Granting a return to Shoaib Malik in the middle order also will be debated; Asad Shafiq is the likelier option to replace Umar Akmal.

Though Dilshan would like his pace attack to help cushion the blow of losing Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga, the burden may fall on Rangana Herath.

Pakistan are the least accomplished of the subcontinent's sides against spin.

Herath, buoyed by 16 wickets in his last two Tests against Australia, has spooked them far more times than they may care to remember; most recently he did so at Galle, in 2009, when his zipping straighter one triggered a second-innings collapse of eight for 46 to secure a 50-run win.


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Osman Samiuddin on @OsmanSamiuddin