Pakistan will aim to secure their first test-series victory in Sri Lanka in nine years when they take a 1-0 lead to the P. Sara Oval for the second test, beginning on Thursday. Pakistan came out on top in the first test at Galle last week, with an emphatic 10-wicket win secured in large part thanks to a seven-wicket second-innings haul from leg spinner Yasir Shah. And they now have a chance to end a run of three straight series defeats in Sri Lanka at a ground that will offer plenty of encouragement to their quick bowlers.
Indeed, Sri Lanka have also lost their last three matches played on the pitch in Colombo. And they enter the match with plenty of doubts over their heads after such a resounding loss on home soil in what was their first test since a 2-0 series defeat in New Zealand at the turn of the year. If they are to bounce back and keep the series alive, opener Kaushal Silva, who scored 125 in the first innings to become one of the few players to come out of the first test defeat with any credit, has stressed that they must cope better with the bowling of Shah.
“I think when you have a good bowler, you have to put pressure on him to receive loose balls,” he said, according to Pakistan publication Dawn. “As batsmen, we have to put him under pressure, because if we play the same way, he'll keep putting the ball in that same spot. If he does that, it's difficult to play the strokes we want.
“If we use our feet, we should be able to get singles and twos, and the odd four. We've got to rotate the strike. If we do that, he can't settle down and bowl at one batsman.”
Sri Lanka’s preparations have also been taken up with plenty of speculation over the future of legendary batsman Kumar Sangakara. Media reports had suggested that the 37-year-old would play out the final two matches of this series and then call it a day after the test against India in August. Captain Angelo Matthews, however, has insisted a decision has yet to be made.
Sri Lanka are set to have enough problems in encountering a Pakistan side with ample motivation. Not only is there the desire to overturn a recent poor record in the country, but the side captained by Misbah-ul-Haq will also doubtless be eager to make it a memorable occasion for Younis Khan. The former captain is third on the list of Pakistan’s all-time leading test run scorers, and on Thursday will appear in his 100th test for his country.
“It's like a dream come true because I wished for it,” he told ESPN. “When I played my first Test I got a taste of this format and then I starting developing a desire to play 100-plus Test matches. When I started playing cricket only Javed Miandad and Saleem Malik had more than 100 [for Pakistan]. I still remember Wasim Akram playing his 100th Test, and also Inzamam-ul-Haq completing his 100th. Watching them achieving it in front of me made me want it more, so now when I am about to achieve this, becoming the fifth one to do so, it makes me a happy and proud Pakistani.”
Schedule: Thursday, June 25 to Monday June 29, beginning at 12:30 a.m. EDT each day.
Live stream info: All five days’ play will be available in the United States via a subscription to Willow TV.