Pakistan Versus Sri Lanka Test Series Preview – Waseem Abbas – Youlin Magazine

Pakistan Versus Sri Lanka Test Series Preview - Waseem Abbas - Youlin Magazine


Written by: Waseem Abbas
Posted on: July 17, 2023 |

Pakistan’s Naseem Shah after taking a wicket on day one of the first Test match (Picture credits to ESPNcricinfo)

Pakistan begins the new World Test Championship (WTC) 2023-25 cycle with an away series against Sri Lanka, as the first game of the 2-match series started on Sunday, July 16. Sri Lanka has scored 242-6 on day one, thanks to Dhananjaya De Silva’s unbeaten 94 and veteran Angelo Mathews’ 64. Pakistan’s returning pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi took three important wickets upfront, while Naseem Shah, Abrar Ahmed and Aga Salman took a wicket apiece.

Sri Lanka’s Dhananjaya De Silva and Angelo Mathews made a partnership of 132 runs

Pakistan had a disastrous WTC cycle in the last two years, losing its home series against Australia and England, and drawing against New Zealand. While Sri Lanka has also struggled a lot in Test cricket in the recent past, it will look to exploit its home advantage against Pakistan. This is Pakistan’s last Test series this year, as the Asia Cup and the ODI World Cup occupy the second half of 2023. Pakistan will be eager to bounce back and start this WTC cycle on a positive note, and enter the upcoming mega-events with a positive mindset.

Pakistan team will be banking on its imperious fast bowling duo of Shaheen and Naseem, as their performance on the opening day of the series also showed how they excelled. Shaheen is returning to the Test side after a forced hiatus of one year due to injuries. Shaheen sustained an injury last summer at Galle, Sri Lanka while playing a Test match against the hosts, which kept him away from action for a long time. While he returned to play the shorter formats later on, it is his first assignment in Test cricket, on the very same venue where he got injured, Galle. The left-arm pacer was stranded at 99 Test wickets, but completed his 100th Test wicket on Sunday in his 26th Test match at an impeccable average of 24. Shaheen’s supporting partner, Naseem, who has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the last year across all formats, will be tormenting the Sri Lankan batters with his swinging deliveries at a high pace. Young mystery spinner, Abrar Ahmed, will be a surprise factor for the hosts, who has bowled excellently in his first four Test matches, taking 28 wickets. 36-year-old left-arm orthodox Noman Ali is another spinner in the playing XI, along with the part-timer, Aga Salman.

Shaheen Shah Afridi raising ball in his hand after completing 100 Test wickets

Pakistan’s batting line is led by the maestro Babar Azam, whose form in this series will be of crucial importance for Pakistan. Babar has a golden opportunity to secure the coveted top position in ICC Test rankings, who is currently ranked 3rd, and if he scores heavily in this series, he can topple New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Australia’s Travis Head, who are ranked first and second respectively. Pakistan has opted for Sarfraz Ahmed, who was the player of the tournament in Pakistan’s last Test Series, as its designated wicket-keeper, axing vice-captain Muhammad Rizwan from the playing 11. Pakistan has persisted with the top order consisting of Imam ul Haq, Abdullah Shafiq and Shan Masood, with young Muhammad Huraira waiting in the wings for his chances. If Shan Masood fails in the first match, it would be an ideal time to introduce Huraira into the national setup in the second game. The 21-year-old Huraira is the top run-getter in the last two first-class seasons, and has an impressive first-class record with 2252 runs in 24 matches at an average over of 68 and a scintillating strike rate of 69.22. Saud Shakil and Salman Agha are occupying the middle-order positions, who both have grabbed the limited opportunities provided to them so far in their brief careers.

Pakistani team celebrating after Shaheen Shah Afridi takes a wicket

Sri Lanka has a formidable batting lineup, fortified by menacing spinners. Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karuratna, probably the most successful Test opener in the last five years with 3256 runs at 50.87, will be a hard nut to crack, who is in good form with two centuries and four fifties in his last seven innings. While the veteran of 104 Tests, Angelo Mathews, is another formidable batter, along with experienced Dinesh Chandimal, who was impressive in the last WTC cycle with 958 runs at an average of 68 in 10 matches. Dhananjaya De Silva and Kusal Mendis are quality batters and can change the dynamics of the game in a session, while young Nishan Madushka and Sadeera Samarawickrama will be eager to cement their place in the Test side.

Sri Lanka’s Sadeera Samarawickrama playing a shot

Sri Lanka’s bowling unit will be depending on left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya, who has taken 50 wickets in seven Tests. Jayasuriya, who took 17 wickets in the last series, will be testing Pakistan’s batting line with his persistent line and length and will be eager to torment Pakistan once again. Ramesh Mandis is another specialist spinner in their XI, who will be joined by the part-time option of Dhananjaya De Silva. Sri Lanka’s fast bowling stocks are inexperienced, therefore, it can be expected that Pakistan will tackle them with mastery.

Prabath Jayasuriya took 17 wickets during the last Pak-SL Test series

While Sri Lanka looks to have an edge in this series due to their home advantage, experienced batters and spinners, one cannot write off mercurial Pakistan who can bounce back at any time and against any opposition. As Test cricket is decreasing with each passing year due to the increasing number of T20 leagues, it is hoped that Test cricket will be able to revive its past glory. WTC is a welcome step in this regard, which gave the bilateral Test series the importance that it deserved. While Pakistan has won ICC ODI World Cup, T20 WC and ICC Champions Trophy, it should now focus its attention towards WTC 2023-25, as we have the talent and resources at our disposal. All we need is execution.


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