By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Pakistan will be eyeing a series winning victory over Sri Lanka to coincide with the 100th Test appearance of one of their most celebrated cricketers Younis Khan in the second Test which starts at the P Sara Oval on Thursday.
Paying tribute to his team mate Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said, “He is the backbone and a very special member of the Pakistan team. Playing 100 Tests is a huge achievement whoever you represent. He is a top batsman for Pakistan at the moment and brings a lot of value to the team. He brings a lot of good, positive energy and has given great performances for the country.”
Pakistan who recorded their first Test win in Sri Lanka after a lapse of nine years when they won at Galle will be looking to improve on that record and try and push for a series clinching win.
“We got a lot of confidence from the first Test and we just want to carry that momentum in the second Test here,” said Misbah.
“Every series and match is on a new day and you can’t just live in the past. From two years, we were playing good cricket but we haven’t been able to win here, so with the victory in Galle all the nervousness is gone.
“You can’t just change many things in just two days but regardless of anything we all know that Sri Lanka is a tough competitor at their home ground and we are not taking them lightly.
“There is no sense of complacency at all and we can’t even afford that. We still have a winning spirit but at the same time we have to be wary about the opponent.”
Pakistan’s success at Galle was largely due to their batsmen coming to terms with the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath who managed only a solitary wicket in the match.
“We have to respect him and everybody knows that he is a top performer. He could be a threat, it’s a new game and we have to start over again, tackling him with a more focused technique,” said Misbah.
“We know that we can’t take him for granted merely on the basis of the Galle Test so we have to be careful, as we know he is capable of making a strong comeback.”
Unlike in Galle, the pitch at the Sara Oval is likely to assist both pace and spin and is result-oriented.
Pakistan’s match-winner at Galle was leg-spinner Yasir Shah who took nine wickets in the match and with his fellow spinner left-armer Zulfiqar Babar completely unsettled the Lankan batting.
“There is always a surprise factor when a bowler plays for the first time against any opponent. This is exactly what happened in the first Test as both Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah were playing for the first time against Sri Lanka and that really made a difference,” said Misbah.
Playing a supporting role to the two spinners was Mohammad Hafeez who has been reported for a suspect action after the Galle Test.
“The good thing is he can still bowl in this Test match and that’s the plus for us, but it’s really disappointing that he just came after clearing his test and now is again on the radar,” said Misbah.
“I mean this will go on like that if we don’t have technology to assess the bowler’s action during the game as there would be a lot of ifs and buts in the bowler’s and the team’s mind questioning what’s going on.
“We are again relying on the naked eye so sometimes it could be frustrating for a player being called again. But Hafeez still has a role to play and we are looking forward to it,” he said.
pictures by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi | AFP