GALLE: Pakistan’s stand-in captain Mohammad Hafeez is confident his young side will regroup after the One-Day International (ODI) defeats to challenge Sri Lanka in the Test series starting today.
Hafeez, 31, was thrown into the deep end when Misbahul Haq was banned from the first Test in Galle due to Pakistan’s slow over-rate in the final ODI in Colombo on Monday. Hafeez, who was made his country’s Twenty20 captain ahead of the current tour, has played only 26 Tests and never captained Pakistan before in the five-day format. But the all-rounder brushed aside the 3-1 loss in the ODI series, saying Pakistan were determined to do their best in the three Tests.
“Misbah’s calm influence will be missed, but it is a great honour to lead my country in Test cricket and I am ready for the challenge,” said Hafeez. “Test cricket demands discipline. Everyone plays a role in it, not just the captain. We will be inspired by the good work we have done in the longer format over the past few years.”
Pakistan have won seven of their last nine Tests, including a brilliant 3-0 whitewash of top-ranked England in the UAE earlier this year. It is a remarkable record for a side that has been forced to play abroad due to other teams’ refusal to tour Pakistan because of security concerns.
Pakistan’s batting will revolve around Younus Khan, whose 76 Test appearances make him the only player in the side to have played more than 50 games.
Ajmal the key
The tourists will also bank on their potent bowling attack led by prolific off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who was the world’s leading Test wicket-taker last year with 50 scalps in eight matches.
This year, Ajmal has already grabbed 24 wickets in three Tests against England, and remains the main threat for Sri Lanka alongside left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman. Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said Ajmal and Rehman ‘could be a handful’ in any conditions, but warned the tourists that the Galle pitch was not as spin-friendly after being re-laid last year.
“The pitch looks good and it will need a balanced attack to take 20 wickets,” said Jayawardene, an accomplished middle-order veteran of 130 Tests.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will look to their experienced batting line-up of Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera to put up a big first-innings total for their bowlers to take advantage of.
The Umpires Decision Review System will not be used in the series.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.
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