Pakistan vs Srilanka: Both teams start their WTC Journey in Galle
While Sri Lanka has played six of their past eight Tests at Galle, Pakistan’s long-term form will be their main worry.
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In sum, Sri Lanka begins as a favorite.
Sri Lanka played Pakistan in the first of two Test matches at Galle on July 16, with the second commencing on the 24th. That is correct for both 2022 and 2023.
It’s unclear why this series was designed to precisely match Pakistan’s visit to Sri Lanka last year, but it does present an opportunity to assess each side’s improvement in the intervening year.
Despite inconsistent performances in the previous 12 months, Sri Lanka enters as clear favorites, owing to their experience with the circumstances; six of the hosts’ last eight Test matches have taken place at this venue, with four of those games ending in victories. Sri Lanka, a very solid Test team that recognizes its greatest red-ball squad, went on to push New Zealand away in their only previous Test series, losing by two wickets in the first before being outclassed in the second.
Pakistan vs Srilanka
They are in fine recent form but in a different configuration. The humiliation of having to qualify for the World Cup in India was more than made up for by Sri Lanka’s dominance in Zimbabwe, where they won all eight games and the trophy to cement their spot in the tournament in style. Dimuth Karunaratne, who missed the final of that tournament due to a hamstring injury, is expected to return. With two hundred and four fifties in his previous seven Test innings, the presence of arguably the world’s finest opener over the last five years provides some much-needed muscle to an opening assault that includes Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah.
Add to add the high quality of Sri Lanka’s spinning ranks – a recent source of particular anguish for Pakistan – and their impregnability is further strengthened. Prabath Jayasuriya and Ramesh Mendis were Pakistan’s main tormentors on a thrilling last day of the series last year, and they should play important roles this time around. Meanwhile, Pakistan has failed to find an adequate replacement for Yasir Shah, with Sajid Khan and Nauman Ali – the two most commonly used – unable to make an impression. Abrar Ahmed will get another chance after shining against England, but Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha are anticipated to play important bowling roles if Galle’s surfaces live up to their gripping reputation.
Pakistan vs Srilanka
However, Pakistan’s underdog position stems from their own track record as much as anything Sri Lanka may hurl at them. They haven’t won a single Test since winning at Galle in a similar game a year ago, and that was their sole victory in 2022. Babar Azam’s team has won just one of 10 matches since the beginning of the year, losing five of the other nine. A weak top order will be tested once more in Sri Lanka, and wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who keeps his spot, will need to back up his recent batting efforts with proficiency with the gloves on demanding grounds.
Prabath Jayasuriya and Shaheen Afridi in the limelight
Prabath Jayasuriya has 46 wickets in five Tests at Galle, including six five-fors and two match ten-wicket hauls. Last year, he took 17 wickets in two Test matches against Pakistan, notably skittling Pakistan out after lunch on the final day of the series to tie it up 1-1. Another world-class spinner from Sri Lanka’s manufacturing line, the slow left armer was awarded Player of the Series and will be a significant opponent for the visitors once again. Whether they’ve learned to deal with him any better might have a big impact on where the series trophy ends up.
Given the baggage Galle carries at this time of year, you can’t go past Shaheen Afridi for Pakistan. All eyes will be on his pace, rhythm, and ability to sustain five days of a format he has had a lengthy vacation from when he played his first Test since suffering a severe injury in the equivalent Test last year. The surface is more likely to favor spin, and if Afridi maintains his bowling pace – something he has recently voiced doubt about – might be a harbinger of his red-ball future. With Pakistan expected to deploy just two fast bowlers, Babar’s workload management of Shaheen will be scrutinized, since in-game management has been an area where the Pakistan skipper has failed.
Team updates (Pakistan vs Srilanka)
If Karunaratne is available, he will captain and begin the innings, with Nishan Madushka likely to replace Pathum Nissanka. Dilshan Madushanka, a left-arm fast bowler, is set to make his Test debut, while Sri Lanka is spoilt with spin options.
1 Dimuth Karunaratne (captain)
2 Nishan Madhushka
3 Kusal Mendis
4 Angelo Mathews
5 Dinesh Chandimal
6 Dhananjaya de Silva
7 Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk)
8 Ramesh Mendis,
9 Prabath Jayasuriya
10 Dilshan Madushanka,
Pakistan is likely to opt for the additional spin allrounder at the expense of a seamer, which puts Nawaz into the picture.
1 Abdullah Shafique
3 Shan Masood
4 Babar Azam (captain)
5 Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk)
6 Saud Shakeel. Agha Salman
7 Mohammad Nawaz
8 Naseem Shah
9 Abrar Ahmed
10 and Shaheen Shah Afridi
11 Agha Salman
Pitch and weather (Pakistan vs Srilanka)
Showers are anticipated for every day of the Test, however, prolonged rain is unlikely, and Sri Lanka’s world-class groundstaff should keep delays to a minimum. The wickets are anticipated to be sluggish and spin-friendly.
Statistics and trivia (Pakistan vs Srilanka)
Shaheen Afridi is one wicket shy from being Pakistan’s 19th Test wicket-taker of 100 wickets, and the first since Mohammad Amir in 2018.
Dimuth Karunaratne has scored more runs as an opener in Test cricket in the last five years than anybody else. Tom Latham (2711) is a distant second with 3256 runs at 50.87.