Pakistan bank on spinners to beat Sri Lanka

Ajmal has 24 wickets in four Dubai Tests, including 8-114 against Sri Lanka in 2011.

Dubai | Updated: January 7, 2014 9:49 pm
Saeed Ajmal Saeed Ajmal was ineffective in Abu Dhabi as Sri Lanka bounced back after conceding a 179-run first-innings lead to force a draw. AP PHOTO

Pakistan is banking on specialist spinners against Sri Lanka for Wednesday’s second Test at a ground where Misbah-ul-Haq’s men have won their only five-day game against the islanders in the last 12 Tests.

Offspinner Saeed Ajmal and left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman took 12 wickets in 2011 in a nine-wicket victory, and Misbah hopes the spinners earn Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the series.

Last week, Ajmal was ineffective in Abu Dhabi as Sri Lanka bounced back after conceding a 179-run first-innings lead to force a draw.

Rehman, in every likelihood, will receive his first game in the three-match series in place of left-arm fast bowler Rahat Ali, who was wicketless in the first Test.

”Usually you go with the two spinners on this (pitch) because on the third, fourth and fifth days spin plays a big role here,” Misbah said on Tuesday.

Both teams cancelled practices on Tuesday due to an unusual spell of heavy rain in Dubai, and the pitch was left covered. However, clear weather is forecast over the next four days.

Ajmal has a rich haul of 24 wickets in four Tests at Dubai that include 8-114 against Sri Lanka in 2011.

”This pitch really gives him something, turn and a bit of bounce,” Misbah said.

”I personally feel your psyche also plays a big role in your performances and I think psychologically he is more comfortable playing here in Dubai because he took lot of wickets here and had lot of success here.”

Pakistan wasted an ideal opportunity to win the first Test after earning a big first-innings lead. The side managed to dismiss key Sri Lanka players Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene early in the second innings but captain Angelo Mathews made a brilliant unbeaten century and set up a daunting target of 302 runs.

”We could not really penetrate through their batting lineup so we need to set different plans for different players,” Misbah said. ”We did very well against their main players (Sangakkara and Jayawardene) … but we need to focus on others also.”

Misbah and Younis Khan scored centuries in the first innings before Pakistan lost its last six wickets for 56 runs to be dismissed for 383. Misbah was keen to put things right.

”Both teams realize that this is the ground, this is the pitch where we can really have a result and really want to put in a big effort here,” he said.

But Mathews was confident that after blunting Ajmal in the series opener, keeping him wicketless in 49 overs in the second innings, they can do it again.

”We’ve played him (Ajmal) straight and we’ve not given him wickets so that’s a good thing from our point of view,” Mathews said.

He was part of Sri Lanka team which lost the 2011 Test and said, ”We have to put that out of our minds.”

Sri Lanka will make one enforced change, bringing in wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for Adnan Akmal, who broke his left index finger during the second innings and was ruled out of the series.

Sri Lanka has also flown home injured fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekera (hamstring) and Lahiru Thirimanne (sore ankle) and summoned batsman Kusal Silva.

Offspinner Sachithra Sananayake might get another opportunity after an unimpressive Test debut. But if he is left out, another uncapped offspinner, Dilruwan Perera, could play.

”There’s a possibility of the newcomer, but we haven’t decided as yet,” Mathews said.

The position of Jayawardene, despite being dismissed for 5 and 0 by debutant fast bowler Bilawal Bhatti, was not in doubt and Mathews wasn’t worried about him.

”He knows about how he should be going about things so I’m pretty sure he will bounce back and bounce back very hard,” Mathews said.

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