With rain around at Pallekele as well, a draw seems the most likely result in the third Test too. If indeed the rain gods allow enough play to take place for a result to be possible, Pakistan would be looking forward to their pacers to do some damage, and give the visitors a realistic chance of squaring the series. In the first innings at the SSC, there were signs of positivity for Pakistan, with pacer Junaid Khan working up some pace and picking up some quick wickets to give Pakistan faint hope of revival.
The only way it seems Pakistan can put Sri Lanka under pressure is if they can pick up some early wickets. Opener Tharanga Parnavitana will be under extreme pressure, having yet again failed to come up with a big score, and Pakistan should be keen to exploit this weakness of Lanka’s. Even more significantly, they must not allow the experienced Lankan batsmen to get away, like they have done in the early two Tests. Everyone from Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara to Mahela Jayawardene have been among the runs in the series, and that has hurt Pakistan big time.
Unlike in the previous Test, Pakistan are likely to have the services of the experienced Umar Gul, which should serve them well. Khan and Gul, in combination, can be potent if they get it right. If they can somehow get past the in-form trio of Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, they could put Lanka under pressure. This is because Thilan Samaraweera has been surprisingly off boil in the series, and would be eager to score some runs. Also, their lower order isn’tstrong once they get past all-rounder Angelo Mathews. These are opportunities Pakistan will have to make full use of, if they hope to square the series.
Come to look of it, Sri Lanka’s bowling also isn’t in best shape as of now. It has only been left-arm-spinner Rangana Herath, who has consistently delivered match-winning efforts of late. The younger Nuwan Pradeep has been pacy, but his line and length have been awry to say the least. He is likely to be replaced by the more experienced Dilhara Fernando, who is equally eccentric and, depending on his day, could be either lethal or wayward. The other spinner in Suraj Randiv impressed when the conditions were helpful at Galle, but his resolve will be tested again at Pallekele. Nuwan Kulasekara has been consistent, but will need better support.
In spite of their obvious weaknesses, Lanka would believe they have the upper hand, for Pakistan’s batting would be tested at Pallekele more than it was at the SSC. Even so, if Pakistan can expose Lanka’s flaw, they would still be in with a chance, rain permitting, of course.
--By A Cricket Analyst