must-win test for shell-shocked Sri Lanka

Published : 8:41 am  June 25, 2015 | No comments so far |  |  (584) reads | 


Sri Lanka’s cricketer Dhammika Prasad (L) reacts after an injury during a practice session at The P. Sara Oval Cricket Stadium in Colombo on June 24, 2015. Sri Lanka will face Pakistan in the second Test match starting June 25, with a confident Pakistan aiming to clinch a first Test series win in Sri Lanka for nine years when the second match starts today. AFP  


By Shehan Daniel
Four days removed from the shock defeat at the Galle International Stadium – a ground traditionally associated with famous home wins – hosts Sri Lanka will face a confident Pakistan in the true Test conditions of the P. Saravanamuttu Oval, when the second Test begins in Colombo today.

Sri Lanka will be forced into at least one change with spinner Dilruwan Perera, the team’s chief wicket-taker in the first Test, ruled out with split webbing in his right hand that subsequently required nine stitches. They may be compelled to make another, with Dhammika Prasad, who took three wickets in the first Pakistani innings of the first Test, also remaining uncertain after being hit on the thumb during a practice session yesterday.

Who will fill those vacant spots will be determined once the combination of the bowling line-up was decided, Mathews said, indicating an inclination towards playing three fast-bowlers on the traditionally pace-friendly conditions of the Oval.

“It’s quite a different wicket from Galle. I think they’ve left a bit of grass. It’ll still turn – you can never have a wicket in Sri Lanka where it seams all four, five days. I think it will turn on the fourth and fifth day, you never know, you can never predict a wicket 100 per cent,” Mathew said, adding, “But there is a little bit of grass, so there will be movement for the fast bowlers.”

Mathews however said that, despite the batting capitulation in the second innings of the first Test, there would be no knee-jerk reactions in shaking-up the batting line-up for the game preferring to stay with the same seven batsmen, unless a tactical change was necessary.
“The batters won’t be changed, for sure,” Mathews said, adding, “We would like to give the batters a chance, because we don’t want to throw anyone out after one game. If not for a tactical change, we would like to have some sort of continuity with the batsman so that they get a little bit of experience and exposure to handle those situations.”

“We don’t want to mourn about what went wrong in the previous game, but we will try and rectify it in this game. We have identified a few areas where we have to improve – the shot selections, how to handle situations. It’s a learning curve for us, we don’t have the Mahelas (Mahela Jayawardene) and the Thilans (Thilan Samaraweera) in the team anymore, so the guys will learn and we need to give them the opportunities.”

The hosts enter the Test having lost their last three games at this venue – the last win came in 2009 against Pakistan – but Mathews said that while he was aware of past record, he was optimistic the new-look team would face up to the challenge.

“We know the past history of the national team hasn’t been great. But we’ll look to change that. It’s a new wicket, a fresh team and a different opposition and we’ll look to take on that challenge without thinking about the past too much,” he said.

A key sub-plot this series has been the question of when star batsman Kumar Sangakkara will call it quits from Test cricket – the only form of the international game he still plays – and Mathews said that the former captain had not made a firm decision as yet.

“He is yet to confirm. He’s still having discussions with the selectors. They have not come to a final decision on that,” Mathews said.
Asked whether this would disrupt team preparation in the run up to the two crucial matches of the series, Mathews said, “It’s not a concern. As I always say, he has earned the right to decide when, how and where to go (retire from the game). And I think that this is not a disturbance at all to the team because he has been in discussion about it since before the series started. I think he’s rendered a service that no one could do in the last 15 years and I think it’s up to him and the selectors to decide on that.”

Sangakkara was expected to announce how many more Tests he would feature in at the end of the first Test in Galle, but no official statement was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq exuded confidence going into the second Test having seen his team turn-around a dire situation to win the first Test.

“Everybody is feeling confident and focusing on the next match. Every series and match is new on a given day and you can’t just live in the past,” Misbah said. “We got a lot of confidence from the first Test and we just want to carry that momentum in the second Test here. From two years we were playing good cricket but we couldn’t win here so with the victory in Galle all the nervousness is gone.”

Misbah also paid tribute to fellow elder statesman Younis Khan, who will play his 100th Test today.

“He is a backbone and very special member of Pakistan team. Playing 100 tests is something, a huge achievement whoever you represent. He is a top batsman for Pakistan at the moment and brings a lot of value to the team. He brings a lot of good, positive energy and gave great performances for the country. His contribution has always been important for the team victories and we all wish he could make his 100th Test memorable with big runs,” Misbah said.