Sri Lanka targets landmark series win over Pakistan

Dinesh Chandimal’s side will be the first team to win a Test series against Pakistan in the UAE if it wins the second Test in Dubai.

Sri Lanka won its second Test in the UAE last week in Abu Dhabi.   -  Getty Images

Dinesh Chandimal’s Sri Lanka will look to become the first team to win a Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, when the second and final match starts in Dubai on Friday.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, 39, was the catalyst for a 21-run victory in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Monday, as he took 6 for 43 to foil Pakistan's modest chase of 136. The narrow win gives Sri Lanka a unique chance for a series win over Pakistan at their neutral venues of the UAE, where it has never lost a series in nine attempts.

It has won five and drawn four in the UAE since the 2009 terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus forced it to play home matches outside of Pakistan. Herath exposed the nominal host’s new batting line-up, shorn of batting greats Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq for the time since they retired in May.

Sri Lankan skipper Chandimal said Pakistani batsmen struggle against Herath.

‘Legend’

“Normally the Pakistan batters really struggle against the left-arm spinners. We all know Rangana is a legend so I am sure he will be a really good asset for this game as well,” said Chandimal of his match-winner, who took his 400th Test wicket in Abu Dhabi.

Herath also reached 100 wickets against Pakistan during the first Test, but Chandimal warned that the Sri Lankan's opponents should not be taken lightly. “We never underestimate Pakistan, they are a really good side, especially in the last couple of series they have played really good cricket,” said Chandimal, whose team will replace Pakistan at sixth in the world rankings with a series win.

Chandimal anchored the batting with a polished 155 not out in Sri Lanka's first-innings total of 419, ably filling in for the more experienced Angelo Mathews, who didn't travel with the squad due to a calf injury. Sri Lanka is also likely to be without senior batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, who is suffering from a back problem and might be replaced by the uncapped Sadeera Samarawickrama.

‘Positive mindset’

Pakistan will also be without seamer Hasan Ali, who has a side strain; he will be replaced by left-arm fast bowler Wahab Riaz. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed hopes Pakistan moves on from the defeat in his first Test as captain. “Credit must be given to Herath the way he bowled,” said Ahmed. “We have never lost in UAE so it’s also important to keep that record intact, so for that we need to attack Herath and play with a positive mindset.”

Pakistan will also hope spearhead Mohammad Amir returns to form with the pink ball after going wicketless in the first Test. Debutant Haris Sohail provided a positive in the batting after scores of 76 and 34, while Azhar Ali hit 85. The match will be the sixth day-night Test after the first between Australia and New Zealand at Adelaide Oval in 2015.

Pakistan beat West Indies in its first day-night Test at the same venue last year. This will be Sri Lanka's maiden pink-ball Test.

Squads

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage.

Umpires: Nigel Llong (ENG) and Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

TV umpire: Sundaram Ravi (IND)

ICC match referee: Andy Pycoft (ZIM)