Sri Lanka vs Pakistan, 2nd Test Preview: SL ready to pose another tough challenge for Babar's boys at spin-friendly Galle
Those who were expecting the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Test series to be one-sided had another thing coming their way.
Having thrashed Australia by an innings, Sri Lanka were brimming with confidence and gave Pakistan a great fight in the series opener.
In fact, they were in the pole position at various points during the test match but it was courtesy of some fine performances from Babar Azam and Abdullah Shafique that the visitors were able to get over the line by 4 wickets in the first test.
Pakistan should pick Nauman Ali
Pakistan made a contentious selection, going in with three pace bowlers at a Galle surface which assisted spinners and did not really require as many quicks. Pakistan must have realised that quite quickly and are likely to add another spinner to their attack.
The team management didn't show enough confidence in Nauman Ali who wasn't able to set the stage on fire in Pakistan's home test series against Australia, but the management also needs to understand that the nature of the pitches at the two venues is completely different and a left arm spinner can prove a handful for the opposition as Prabath Jayasuriya showed yet again in the first test match.
Haris Rauf or Faheem Ashraf should play ahead of Naseem Shah
Pakistan's selection conundrum has been made easier with an injury to Shaheen Shah Afridi. Afridi, as always, was on the money in the fist innings and picked up four wickets while giving away 58 runs from his 14.1 overs.
However, he had some discomfort in the second dig and bowled just 7 overs. Afridi has been ruled out of the second test match with a knee injury but will remain with the squad to recuperate.
Naseem Shah too did not look dangerous in the first test match and Pakistan can try out Haris Rauf in his place who provides extra pace and can create something out of nothing. Rauf is also a good exponent of reverse swing, if it comes to that.
The team can also pick Faheem Ashraf for his batting ability. As it is, the spinners will have to do the bulk of the bowling.
Babar, Shafique shine
Pakistan should be thankful to Babar Azam who pulled them out of trouble in Pakistan's first innings with a well compiled 244-ball 119 when there was big turn on offer. At the moment, there are only a handful of batters in world cricket who trust their defence enough to bat in the manner in which Babar did on a Galle strip turning big.
Abdullah Shafique also played out of his skin in the second essay with an unbeaten 160, batting for as many as 408 deliveries which is an achievement in itself.
Agha Salman also played his part more or less and justified his selection ahead of Fawad Alam. Mohammad Nawaz was in the thick of action as well and picked up a 5 wicket haul in Sri Lanka's second innings.
Hasan Ali may not have a lot of wickets to show for but was extremely difficult to get away and you need a bowler like that to provide rest to the spinners and keep one end tight. Add to that, he can also tonk the ball and add a few valuable runs towards the end of the innings.
How do SL fit in Pathum Nissanka?
Pathum Nissanka has recovered from COVID-19 and is available for selection in the second test match. But, it will be interesting to see whether Sri Lanka pick him over Oshada Fernando who did a fine job in the first test match.
Lakshitha Manasinghe has also been added to the Sri Lanka squad in place of Maheesh Theekshana who injured his finger in the first test.
Predicted Playing XIs
Sri Lanka - Oshada Fernando/Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Ramesh Mendis, Jeffrey Vandersay/Lakshitha Manasinghe, Prabath Jayasuriya, Kasun Rajitha
Pakistan - Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), Agha Salman, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Nauman Ali, Naseem Shah/Haris Rauf/Faheem Ashraf
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