It is the perfect chance for Pakistan to finally win a Test series against Sri Lanka on the Pearl Island after 2005-06 as the hosts will be without veterans Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who has opted out of the decider with the series tied at 1-1.
Jayawardene — who retired last year — boasts 1,687 runs in 29 Tests against Pakistan, while Sangakkara — set to retire after playing two Tests against India in August — has 2,911 runs in 23 Tests to his name against the men in green.
According to former Pakistan captain Tauseef Ahmed, the Islanders have not looked so light on paper in recent times, with experienced Tillakaratne Dilshan standing retired as well. “If you look at this Sri Lankan batting line-up without Sangakkara, Jayawardena and Dilshan, there is no depth whatsoever and Pakistan must grab this opportunity of a series win,” Tauseef told The Express Tribune.
“Even with Sangakkara in the first two Tests, the Sri Lankans struggled, but Pakistan failed to capitalise on the chances which came their way, otherwise it would have been a different story. Although the series is squared at 1-1, I would say Pakistan have played better cricket courtesy of the one-man show from Yasir Shah.”
On the other hand, Pakistan will miss all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez in the last Test as he is set to appear on July 6 in Chennai for his bowling reassessment after being reported a second time for chucking.
In the absence of Hafeez, Pakistan will not only lose an opener but their off-spin department will also weaken, leaving only part-timer Asad Shafiq for off-spin duty if called upon.
Left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar has struggled to stamp the same authority leg-spinner Yasir has achieved on the tour.
But Tauseef feels that it is the presence of left-handers which has troubled Babar, while the below-par performance of the pacers has not helped the cause either. “Babar is struggling because there are plenty of left-handers in the Sri Lankan batting line-up and his arm-ball, which is his wicket-taking delivery, has been almost nullified. The best he can do is contain runs if he isn’t taking wickets to maintain the pressure, so that Yasir can hunt from other end.”
Shaan, Rahat in line to play third Test
Pakistan will make at least two changes in the squad due to the non-availability of Hafeez and injury to pacer Wahab Riaz, who has been ruled out for up to two to three weeks with a fractured hand.
Skipper Misbahul Haq has two options in the opening department with Shaan Masood and Babar Azam on the bench, and has three choices to replace Wahab with Rahat Ali, Ehsan Adil or Imran Khan.
“Hafeez will be replaced by left-hander Shaan, while Rahat will come in for Wahab for the decider,” revealed a team official.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.
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