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Pakistan and Sri Lanka Brace Themselves For Historic Rawalpindi Test

Test cricket will return to Pakistan when the hosts take on Sri Lanka at Rawalpindi on December 11, 10 years after the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore.

Cricketnext Staff |December 10, 2019, 2:57 PM IST
Pakistan and Sri Lanka Brace Themselves For Historic Rawalpindi Test

Test cricket will return to Pakistan when the hosts take on Sri Lanka at Rawalpindi on December 11, 10 years after the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore.

On offer are 120 points in the ICC Test Championship, but for Pakistan, the series means much more than that. It is a chance to take a giant step forward in re-establishing Pakistan as a Test cricket destination, and put on a good show in front of their fans who have been starved of live action in the longest format of the game for a decade.

In the build up to the series, the excitement has been less about the on-field contest and more about the larger significance of Test cricket returning to Pakistan. The visitors arrived to a warm welcome and high security in Pakistan, and have also been accompanied by a few passionate fans who have made the trip to Pakistan. A near full-strength squad agreed to feature in the series.

Bandula Warnapura and Javed Miandad, who captained Sri Lanka and Pakistan in their first-ever Test, have been invited as special guests.

As far as team composition is concerned, Pakistan will be handing a chance to batsman Fawad Alam after 10 years out of the national side, and he spoke of his excitement at potentially making his ‘second debut’ earlier. Iftikhar Ahmed and Musa Khan have been excluded after a poor tour of Australia, with Usman Shinwari coming in.

For Sri Lanka, Suranga Lakmal will miss the series after originally being part of the squad, after contracting dengue. He has been replaced by Asitha Fernando.

Adding further spice to the encounter will be the return of Mickey Arthur to Pakistan, but this time in opposition colours after he was announced as the new head coach of Sri Lanka earlier this month. One couldn’t have written a better script.

"The key will be precision, accuracy and then building pressure with our bowlers. That is hopefully going to be the winning recipe for us. Our batsman cashing into that first innings is of utmost importance,” Arthur told reporters before the first Test.

The last time Sri Lanka and Pakistan took each other on in a Test series, the islanders won, handing Pakistan a rare defeat in their adopted home of UAE. In the first Test, Pakistan couldn't chase down a target of 136 runs, while in the second, a first-innings 196 from Dimuth Karunaratne set up a 68-run win for Sri Lanka despite them being bowled out for 96 in the second innings and Asad Shafiq making a century in the hosts' reply.

The last meeting between the sides was the T20Is in Pakistan, Sri Lanka completed a clean sweep and won the series 3-0.

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali knows the significance of the series, and said, "It is important for us to play well in this series. We have a fresh batting line up. We have to figure out how to win Tests in Pakistan."

With the focus on Test cricket returning to the country, both teams, especially the hosts would do well to focus all their energies on executing the basics right and take the game one session at a time. With both teams excited to get into the thick of the action, it promises to be a memorable Test series.

Squads

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Osh­ada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhan­anjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, and Lakshan Sandakan. Substitute player from the end Test: Asitha Fernando.

Pakistan: Azhar Ali (captain), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket keeper), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, and Usman Shinwari.

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