SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates- Pakistan will be desperate to get a helpful pitch for a series-levelling win against Sri Lanka in the third and final Test starting in Sharjah on Thursday.
Captain Misbha-ul Haq was frustrated over the two unresponsive pitches, the first in Abu Dhabi where Sri Lanka batted resolutely to salvage a draw and then in Dubai where a first-day seaming pitch undid Pakistan’s batting and later blunted their bowling.
Sri Lanka, helped by their new-look pace attack and a fighting century from their old campaigner Mahela Jayawardne recorded their biggest-ever win of nine wickets over Pakistan to take a 1-0 lead.
The lack of spin on the pitches reduced Pakistan’s match-winning bowler Saeed Ajmal into a mere-runner with only five wickets in two Tests so far and the look of the Sharjah stadium pitch suggests it will only turn on the last two days.
Sri Lanka posted a big 413-run total when the two teams played the last Test at the venue in November 2011 in a match which Pakistan only saved because of heavy rain on the final day on their way to a 1-0 series win.
Misbah admitted Pakistan’s chances of levelling the series largely depend on the pitch.
“It will totally depend on the conditions and what kind of a pitch we get,” said Misbah, who criticised the Dubai stadium pitch.
“Obviously, we didn’t get support from the pitch as per our strength, which is our spin bowling, and that is a worry for us,” said Misbah, whose team has lost four of their last 13 Tests against Sri Lanka with only one win and eight draws.
Pakistan will be forced to bring in a bowler in place of paceman Bilawal Bhatti who injured his hamstring during the second Test. He will either be replaced with fast bowler Mohammad Talha or left-armer Abdul Rehman, if Pakistan decide to play with two spinners.
Pakistan are also likely to tinker with their top-order batting with opener Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez — who both failed in Dubai — making way for Shan Masood or Azhar Ali.
Sri Lanka will have no such problems, hoping Jayawardene recover from a finger injury which did hamper his batting in the second Test.
“Unless the pitch is very different, I don’t think we need to make any changes. When we go into a Test match we take our best bowlers, so if someone gets injured, we can always bank on a back-up,” said Mathews who registered his first overseas win as captain in Dubai.
“If we look at the batsmen, even if four of them are wicketkeepers, they have done their jobs. I am sure Mahela will play,” said Mathews.
Besides the series win target, the sixth-placed Sri Lanka will replace Pakistan (currently fifth) in Test rankings if they win 2-0 in the series.
Both the teams will also try to give their coaches — Dav Whatmore of Pakistan and Graham Ford of Sri Lanka — a winning farewell as both leave their post after the match.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Bilawal Bhatti, Abdul Rehman, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Talha.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Perera, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Vishwa Fernando.
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough (ENG) and Sundaram Ravi(IND)
Tv umpire: Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
Match referee: Javagal Srinath (IND)