Asian giants Sri Lanka and Pakistan will feature in yet another series when the Galle Test kicks off on Wednesday. While the matches between the two sides have been evenly contested, Sri Lanka have always had the advantage while playing at home. The last time these two teams met in Lanka, the hosts had it easy. Thus, they would again go in as favourites, and Angelo Mathews' side would be keen to continue their great run at home against familiar foes. Misbah-Ul-Haq on the other hand would be keen to reverse the trend. Although they haven't won in Sri Lanka recently, they managed to beat Bangladesh in the Tests.
Even though Sri Lanka have the home advantage, their batting in particular isn't as strong as it was till a couple of years back. There is no Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top, and Mahela Jayawardene has also retired. This means, Kumar Sangakkara is the only genuine veteran in the side, and he too is only a few Tests away from retirement. Under the circumstances, Lanka would need their experienced players like Lahiru Thirimanne and skipper Mathews among others to put their hands up. The time has come for Dinesh Chandimal to start contributing on a more regular basis.
The Lankans have made some interesting selections for the Tests. Domestic veteran Jehan Mubarak has been recalled after a gap of eight years. It is a just reward for consistent domestic performances in which he has scored over 1000 runs in the last two seasons. He now gets another chance to cement his spot in the Test team. Among the youngsters who have been included in the squad are offspinner Tharindu Kaushal, talented fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera and left-handed batsman Kusal Perera, who has also opened for Lanka. Another fast bowler Shaminda Eranga misses out due to injury, and even Suranga Lakmal's inclusion depends on his recovery from injury.
Pakistan have a genuine chance of putting Sri Lanka under pressure, but for that they will themselves have to be at the best. As always, their batting will be heavily dependent on skipper Misbah who, even at 41, is the side's best bat, which does not say a lot about the team's batting talent. Younis Khan is another veteran, whose role will be crucial as the anchor of the team. Also, he has a good Test record against Lanka, which should give him further confidence. Pakistan have taken the brave decision of dropping Saeed Ajmal from the squad that featured against Bangladesh as the spinner was ineffective with his remodelled action.
Ahmed Shehzad has been recalled to the side, after he was not chosen for the Bangladesh series following the head injury he picked up against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi. Another opener, Shan Maqsood also makes a comeback. With no Ajmal, Pakistan will depend on leg-spinner Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar, the two specialist spinners. They can also fall back on Mohammad Hafeez for the all-rounder duties. Pakistan have a reasonably good pace attack with Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Imran Khan and Ehsan Adil although Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali are missing due to injury.
Looking at the teams, a close contest could be on the cards.
--By A Cricket Analyst