Lanka bank on Herath for first series win after Murali
Sri Lanka are seeking their first ever test series victory since the retirement of ace spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, when they take on depleted Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium, on Friday.
The islanders played 19 tests in the post Muralitharan era but won only two of them, while losing seven and drawing ten. They couldn't win a single series since Muralitharan retired from test cricket, with a whopping 800 test wickets to his credit, in July 2010.
Sri Lanka's only satisfaction was not losing to world's number one test team, England, two months ago and the series ended 1-1 in Colombo. Having said that, Mahela Jayawardene has played enough cricket to understand that he needs to focus one game at a time.
"We had an opportunity against England (in Galle) but they came back strongly in Colombo and it was a two match series and obviously there wasn't a third," Jayawardene told reporters in the eve of the first test in Galle.
Sri Lanka has gone down in the ICC test championship table with a mere 99 rating points against them. Sri Lanka recorded her last test series win against New Zealand in 2009, in Sri Lanka.
Beaming with confidence after the 3-1 ODI series win against Pakistan, Sri Lanka is ready put all their test failures behind and start afresh in Galle.
"This gives us an opportunity to play some good cricket, see where we're after the first test match, It's very important that you have a good start and then see what we can come up with," Jayawardene added.
Sri Lanka has the ideal platform for their plans.
Regular skipper, Misbah Ul-Haq was banned for one test by the ICC for a serious over-rate offence and he will miss the Galle test. Shahid Afridi, who usually performs well in any form of cricket against Sri Lanka, is not included in the test squad and is back at home.
Mirror sport learns that former skipper, Younis Khan is reluctant to accept the captaincy again and Pakistan authorities had no other option but to hand the reigns over to T20 skipper Mohammed Hafeez. Hafeez is going through a lean patch currently and scored only 24 runs in the two T20's before failing miserably in the ODI series with scores of 2, 14, 0, 0 and 6.
To make matters worse, some reliable sources reveal that the Pakistan camp had been affected with disputes among seniors after the ODI series loss.
However, Pakistan is not the team to underestimate at any time. They beat world's number one, England, 3-0, in the UAE before winning the next two tests comfortably against Bangladesh.
The man responsible for these victories, Saeed Ajmal, became the highest test wicket taker last year with 50 scalps and this year, the off spinner has 24 wickets in only three tests.
The frequently asked question among Sri Lankans is whether Thisara Perera, man of the ODI series, will get the opportunity on Friday. According to Jayawardene, it's very unlikely that Perera will get the nod. However the selection committee decided that Nuwan Kulasekera would partner Chanaka Welegedara with the new ball instead of Nuwan Pradeep.
"We haven't finalized the team yet. But we won’t go that far away from what we had in the last six months especially against England," Jayewardene said.
In spite of not playing the last two ODI's in Colombo, Sri Lanka's first choice spinner, since Mural retired Nangana Hearth will be back in action on Friday.
"Nangana wasn't injured. It's just that because he went through an operation two and half months back, we wanted to make sure that he plays a few games and take some rest before the three test matches. His bowling is fantastic. There's no complains. We just wanted to give him an extra break. He'll definitely be in the line-up," Jayewardene said.
(Daminda Wijesuriya reporting from Galle)