Pakistan’s performance in the most extended format will be their main worry, even though Sri Lanka has played six of their last eight Tests in Galle.
Overall, Sri Lanka starts as the favorite.
The first two Test matches between Sri Lanka and Pakistan occurred at Galle on July 16; the second Test also began on July 24. This is accurate for both 2022 and 2023. It’s still being determined why this series was planned to perfectly mimic Pakistan’s trip to Sri Lanka the previous year, but it gives us a chance to assess how each team has improved over the intervening year. Due to their familiarity with the conditions, Sri Lanka is the clear favorite despite having a mixed recent record. Six of the hosts’ last eight Test matches have occurred at this location, and four games have been victories for them. In their lone previous Test series, Sri Lanka challenged New Zealand at home, losing the first game by two wickets before being defeated in the second. This generally stable Test team is aware of their strongest red-ball squad.
Although in a different format, they appear to be in flawless shape recently. The humiliation of having to compete in India to earn a spot in the World Cup was more than atoned for by Sri Lanka’s victory against everyone in Zimbabwe, winning all eight games and the championship to secure their position at the event. They are strengthened by Dimuth Karunaratne’s anticipated comeback after missing the competition’s final due to a hamstring ailment. The availability of perhaps the world’s best opener of the last five years offers some much-needed heaviness against an opening assault that consists of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, as he has two hundred and four fifties in his last seven Test innings.
Sri Lanka’s talent in their spinning ranks, which has recently been a source of particular anguish for Pakistan, adds to their impregnability. Both Ramesh Mendis and Prabath Jayasuriya, Pakistan’s primary tormentors on the dramatic last day of the series last year, could have significant roles. Sajid Khan and Nauman Ali, the two they looked to most frequently, have struggled to replace Yasir Shah in Pakistan in a way that has had a similar impact. Abrar Ahmed, who was impressed against England, will get another chance in this series. However, if Galle’s pitches live up to their gripping reputation, Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha are anticipated to have significant bowling responsibilities.
However, Pakistan’s reputation as the underdog stems just as much from their past performance as it does from anything Sri Lanka may hurl at them. Since their victory at Galle in the comparable match a year ago, which was their lone victory of 2022, they have yet to win a single Test. Babar Azam’s team has won just once in ten games since the beginning of the year, dropping five of the other nine. In Sri Lanka, a weak top order will be tested once more, and Sarfaraz Ahmed, still the wicketkeeper, will need to back up his recent strong batting efforts with proficiency with the gloves on complex surfaces.
Sri Lanka WWLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Prabath Jayasuriya and Shaheen Afridi are featured. Prabath Jayasuriya has amassed 46 wickets in five Test matches in Galle, including six five-fors and two match ten-wicket hauls. The two Test matches against Pakistan last year featured 17 doors, including the infamous skittling out of Pakistan after lunch on the final day of the series to tie it up at 1. The sluggish left armer, another top-tier spinner from Sri Lanka’s production line, was voted Player of the Series and will again serve as a primary foe for the visitors. The series trophy’s final location may be significantly influenced by how well they have adjusted to him.
Given all the baggage Galle has at this time of year for him, you shouldn’t look past Shaheen Afridi for Pakistan. All eyes will be on his pace, rhythm, and capacity to sustain five days of a format he has taken a significant hiatus from when he plays his first Test since suffering a severe injury in the equivalent Test last year. The surface is more likely to favor spin. Therefore, Shaheen’s ability to maintain bowling speed—about which he recently expressed doubt—could be a sign of how successful he would be with red balls. Babar’s management of Shaheen’s workload will be closely watched because Pakistan will probably only deploy two fast bowlers, and the captain of Pakistan has in the past had trouble with in-game management.
Karunaratne will serve as the team’s captain and opener if he is available, with Nishan Madushka likely beating Pathum Nissanka to the position. Dilshan Madushanka, a left-arm fast bowler, is expected to make his Test debut, and Sri Lanka has many spin options.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Nishan Madhushka, Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Sixth Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Ramesh Mendis, Prabath Jayasuriya, Dilshan Madushanka, and Praveen Samarawickrama are the following seven players.Nawaz is a candidate because Pakistan will likely select the additional spin all-rounder at the expense of a seamer.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam (captain), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Abdullah Shafique, AGHASALMAN 7 Morad Nawaz, 10 Abrar Ahmed, 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi, and 9 Naseem Shah
Pitch and conditions
Every day of the Test is expected to see showers, but there is little chance of prolonged rain, and Sri Lanka’s top-notch ground crew should ensure there are as few delays as possible. The wickets are going to be sluggish and spin-friendly.
Stats and trivia
Shaheen Afridi is one victory away from becoming the first Pakistani bowler since Mohammad Amir in 2018 to reach 100 Test wickets.
Dimuth Karunaratne has led all Test cricket openers in runs scored during the past five years. Tom Latham (2711) came in far behind with 3256 runs at 50.87.
“While injuries are a fact of life for athletes, it is fantastic to be back. I love playing red-ball cricket, and I’m close to reaching a century of Test wickets, which would be a significant accomplishment for me. Shaheen Afridi is eager to return to red-ball cricket after a year away.
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