Whatever happens during this Pakistan v Sri Lanka Series, it marks two extremely important occasions.
Above all, it’s the return of Test cricket to Pakistan soil for the first time in over ten years. A horrendous terrorist attack on the tourists’ team coach had led to a decade without virtually any international cricket played in Pakistan. Who were the tourists back then? None other than Sri Lanka.
The second important landmark is that it’s Micky Arthur’s first assignment as coach of Sri Lanka. Who has he just stopped being coach of? Pakistan.
Arthur is a methodical, discipline-installing coach with an excellent track record. He may be exactly what Sri Lanka need in terms of stability.
This series counts towards the World Test Championship.
Team News: Pakistan
The first thing Pakistan need to get right is to play Mohammad Abbas. They left him out of the First Test against Australia and never recovered from it. He’s an absolute magician when it comes to extracting swing and his accurate lines and lengths have even the best batsmen in trouble, when he’s on song. There’s also a first Test call-up for left-arm paceman Usman Shinwari, who has impressed in the shorter formats.
Yasir Shah scored a remarkable century from number eight in the Second Test against Australia but it’s his leg-spin bowling that will be needed here.
Skipper Azhar Ali and Babar Azam are the key men with the bat. Fawad Alam gets a Test recall after a ten-year absence from the longest format.
Team News: Sri Lanka
Dimuth Karunaratne captains a side featuring more talent than it does experience. Other than himself, only former skippers Angelo Matthews and Dinesh Chandimal have been around for a while in terms of batsmen. Kusal Perera is the potential game-changer with the willow.
With the ball, Suranga Lakmal has seen it all before and would have been their main threat at the start of the innings but he’ll miss out after being taken ill with dengue. It’s a big blow to Sri Lanka’s chances.
Dhananjaya de Silva brings balance to the side as a fine batsman who is also dangerous as an off-break bowler.
Lakshan Sandakan will have plenty of work to do as the team’s chief spinner.
Venue for Pakistan v Sri Lanka 1st Test: Rawalpindi
It’s been 15 years since a Test match was played at Rawalpindi, a convincing win for India over Pakistan by an innings and 131 runs, largely down to Rahul Dravid’s remarkable first-innings score of 270.
It’s therefore hard to know what sort of wicket it will be. The educated guess is that there will be something for the quicks on days one and two, with the wicket starting to spin from day three onwards, making batting harder and harder for batting as the game progresses.
Match odds for Pakistan v Sri Lanka
Pakistan’s odds are 1.83, which is understandable given they’ve been the much better side in Test cricket for the past few years, have players better suited to this format and are at home. Sri Lanka look a little too reliant on their three senior batsmen. If they don’t get going, their attacking but somewhat inexperienced batsmen may not have the patience and technique to grind out runs.
Having said that, the toss could be a big leveller. If it goes Sri Lanka’s way and they bat first, they can put Pakistan under serious pressure in a fourth innings run chase if the pitch starts to turn. That 1.83 on Pakistan is therefore a bit too risky.
Pakistan Top Batsman (First innings) Odds
Babar Azam is currently the golden boy of Pakistan cricket among the batsmen. He is fresh off a century and a fifty in that Test series in Australia. He’s a 4.0 chance with Betway to top score in the first innings. But at a considerably bigger price of 5.0, you can back Asad Shafiq. At 33, he’s far more experienced than the stylish Azam and will have played a lot more red ball cricket in Pakistan. Shafiq notched two fifties in Australia and his 25 career fifties, and 12 centuries in his Test career, are proof of his ability.
Man of the match odds for Pakistan v Sri Lanka
Yasir Shah made more headlines for his century in Australia than his bowling. But he very much remains Pakistan’s main man with the ball. The leg-spinner is always in search of wickets and if the pitch turns as you’d expect it to, he could really enjoy himself. His record in Test cricket is outstanding in the sub-continent. At an attractive price of 10.0, he’ll have very chance of being man of the match.
Recommended bets for Pakistan v Sri Lanka
Back Asad Shafiq to be Pakistan first innings top batsman @ 5.0 with Betway
Back Yasir Shah to be man of the match @ 10.0 with Betway