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Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq relaxes during a practice session at the Galle International Stadium ahead of the first Test against Sri Lanka. – AFP pic by Ishara S Kodikara

Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Galle

GALLE: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has said that if his team was to beat Sri Lanka and win the three-match Test series they need to get the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara early.

“He is their key player. If we need to win the series, we need to get him early. He has been the key player for the last so many years and he is the key wicket,” said Misbah at the pre-Test conference.

Pakistan has not won a Test series in Sri Lanka since 2006 and the current series offers them a good chance of putting that record straight.

“The last time we played a Test Match here we played really well. Half way through we thought the game was over and that was a massive mistake. With the kind of players Sri Lanka had Sangakkara completely took the game away from us on that occasion,” Misbah recalled.

“That was a massive blow for us. In a Test Match, a game could be over in one session. You need to concentrate and go on till the last moment. If you want to win against Sri Lanka don’t give them any chances and just keep focusing.

“Sanga is half of the Sri Lankan team. He always gets runs against all the top sides. He has been a fine ambassador as well apart from being a superb player. Whether you take T20s, ODIs or Test cricket, he is on top. He is either number one or number two.”

Pakistan’s other problem against Sri Lanka has been the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath who has been a thorn on their side in the recent past.

“He is the main bowler for them. He knows the conditions well. We struggled against him only in the last series. Most of other series we got runs. It happens in cricket. Sometimes bowlers win and sometimes batsmen win,” said Misbah.

“Everybody is working hard how to handle Rangana. I thought we have generally played Rangana very well except perhaps for that last series that was played here. We need to get a bit of planning in and move forward how to handle him and to play him well. That’s the only way we can handle him better.”

Misbah was confident the two spinners (Zulfiqar Barbar and Yasir Shah) he has brought on the tour would deliver for Pakistan.

“They are new to Test cricket, but in terms of performances the numbers aren’t there. They have an opportunity to play against a side that is good against spin. It’s going to be a test for them. I hope they will make it difficult to these experienced players,” said Misbah.

It is seldom that international teams have two left-arm quicks in their side and although Pakistan has the luxury of Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz, Misbah said, “Actually it’s not about left-armers or right-armers it’s about the quality of the bowling.

“We have got two left-armers who are performing well at the moment but the important thing is to bowl well.”

Pictures by Ishara S Kodikara

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