x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sri Lanka are weighing up their bowling options

Misbah-ul-Haq insists Pakistan's only concern is in the field ahead of today's second Test.

Sri Lanka's Suranga Lakmal.
Sri Lanka's Suranga Lakmal.

DUBAI // Sri Lanka are toying with the idea of playing an extra bowler to beef up their inexperienced attack for the second Test against Pakistan, which starts today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Sri Lanka only took seven wickets over five days in the drawn first Test in Abu Dhabi, and the freshness of a four-man attack including the debutant Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal, whose Test career is only matches old, was apparent.

The line-up's balance is currently affected by the absence of Angelo Mathews from bowling duties. Mathews has yet to fully recover from a quadriceps injury which has restricted the all-rounder to just batting.

"It might be we have to play one less extra batsman and I might go up the batting order," said Tillakaratne Dilshan, the captain, who has recently demoted himself from opener to the middle order. "We might try to bring [in] another fast bowler or spinner to give more work to the bowlers."

The tourists have a couple of fast bowling options in the squad in Dhammika Prasad and Kosala Kulasekara, though both are also inexperienced.

Kulasekara, an all-rounder, is uncapped and Prasad, who has bustling pace, has only played six Tests. Given that conditions may help spin, the off-spinner Suraj Randiv could also come into consideration.

Any selection will also take into account Sri Lanka's first-innings collapse to 197 as well, a continuation of some inconsistent batting over the past year. But as has been the line since they saved the first Test, batting out two days to do so, Sri Lanka remain confident they can end a run of 12 winless Tests stretching back to July 2010.

"The way we finished, especially the last two days, we can carry that for the second Test," Dilshan said. "Confidence is really high and we did so many positive things to save it."

It is the way of mid-table battles - Sri Lanka are fifth in the Test rankings and Pakistan sixth - that both sides will be happy after a drawn Test. Pakistan held the upper hand through the first three days and their bowling, as Misbah-ul-Haq, their captain, has been only too keen to remind, was far more incisive.

As much as it was Kumar Sangakkara's double hundred that saved the Test, a remarkable seven dropped catches by Pakistan robbed them of a chance to win it.

"We're very clear about our strategies and what we have to do," Misbah said. "There are many positives. We took nearly 30 wickets, 20 and six or seven drops, so that was a positive for us. The batsmen scored and played very well. The only negative was our fielding. We still have an edge on them."

The other criticism Pakistan faced after the draw was over their scoring rate on the second and third day, when many said their batsmen were too slow in trying to force a result.

"We'll talk about that because we want to do this more positively, especially when you're on top and want build on a good lead, you have to push the pedal," Misbah said.

The only change Pakistan might consider is bringing in Wahab Riaz, possibly for Aizaz Cheema, to provide a greater wicket-taking threat. Umar Gul, who took six wickets in the first Test, pulled up stiff after it, but Misbah said he should be fine to play. Any change would be harsh on Cheema, who bowled well throughout the Test with little fortune.

In the Test against South Africa at this ground last year, Pakistan actually played two specialist spinners and both sides feel the surface may cede more to spin as the game goes on.

"Last time when we played here, it had a bit more turn and a bit more bounce than Abu Dhabi but I don't know how it will do this time," Misbah said. "But as the match progressed [last year], it gave more turn and bounce so it's a little different from Abu Dhabi."


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The second Test matchup


Sri Lanka have a psychological edge having saved the last Test but they are without a win in seven Tests.

Team news

Pakistan: They may bring in the experienced paceman Wahab Riaz in place of Aizaz Cheema, who managed just two wickets in the first Test. Misbah-ul-Haq has played down a slight niggle to Umar Gul. Iqbal Qasim, the chief selector, said Pakistan should field two spinners.
Sri Lanka: They have the inexperienced Kosala Kulasekara and Dhammika Prasad to bolster their attack and may play one at the expense of a batsman. Suraj Randiv, the spinner, below, could also come into consideration.

Weather / Pitch

The Test should be bathed in glorious sunshine for the whole five days, and the feeling is the pitch should have more bounce than the one at the Zayed Cricket Stadium and should turn later on.


Pakistan: (probable order) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Umar Gul, 9 Aizaz Cheema, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan
Sri Lanka: (probable) 1 Tharanga Paranavitana, 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Nuwan Pradeep/Dhammika Prasad/Suraj Randiv, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Chanaka Welegedera, 11 Suranga Lakmal.


Umpires: AL Hill and SK Tarapore
TV umpire: Zameer Haider
Match referee: DC Boon
Reserve umpire: Shozab Raza