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Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan, 1st Test: Date, Time, TV Info and Preview

Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka, right, hits the ball past Pakistan wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed during the second cricket test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday,  Jan. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Stephen Hindley)
Stephen Hindley/Associated Press
Alex TelferFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

With home advantage and plenty of match practice under their belts, Sri Lanka will fancy their chances against Pakistan at Galle, but they shouldn't underestimate the visitors.

As well as being similarly matched on paper, in Saeed Ajmal, Misbah-ul-Haq's team boast the best bowler in the world and are currently ranked third in the ICC's Test Championship rankings, three spots above the home side.

True, Fermat's Last Theorem is easier to decode than the ICC's ranking system, but we'll have a much better idea of these team's comparative abilities once the dust settles on this series. Let's take a look at the sides ahead of the opening clash.

 

Venue: Galle, Sri Lanka

Date: Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014

Start time: 10:00 a.m. local time, 4:30 a.m. GMT

Weather: It's a mixed bag of weather scheduled for Galle over the duration of the Test, according to bbc.co.uk/weather, with thundery showers seemingly imminent at any time.

Live stream/TV Info: The match is scheduled to be streamed live on PTV and Geo Sports in Pakistan, CSN and MTV Sports in Sri Lanka and Star Life OK in the UK.

 

Preview

It has been a roller-coaster ride of late for Sri Lanka with their history-making win in England being tempered by a recent, albeit narrow, defeat to South Africa. 

Which makes this visit from their continental rivals Pakistan something of a litmus test.

In terms of match practice, Sri Lanka are streets ahead. They've contested two intense series in the last couple of months, and their players should have improved from the experience.

Angelo Mathews has proven himself the real deal, while the legendary duo of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara continue to score runs for fun.

Concerns remain in the pace-bowling department, however.

Suranga Lakmal is out injured and doubts remain over Shaminda Eranga, which places more pressure and workload on Rangana Herath who, as per Bishen Jeswant of ESPNcricinfo, has bowled his fair share of overs and then some.

Pakistan's main worry has to be one of rustiness and form. Having been dormant since January, their squad has suffered disruptions also with injuries to Umar Gul and Mohammad Irfan while Mohammad Hafeez has been dropped for the umpteenth time.

Younis Khan is back to strengthen the batting line-up, though, and of course their not-so-secret weapon, Ajmal, is present and correct.

While his colleagues have had their feet up, Ajmal has been terrorising batsmen in England's County Championship Division Two, taking an incredible 63 wickets in nine games.

Despite Sri Lanka's familiarity in facin slow bowlers of all makes and models, if Ajmal stays fit he could be the key to the outcome of this tussle.

Both these teams met in January when Pakistan edged a three-match encounter played out under the sun and in front of the UAE's empty stadiums.

On that occasion, Sri Lanka threw the series away with an uber-defensive outlook in the third Test. Given what has taken place since, it is hard to see Mathews adopting similar tactics this time around.

 

Test match form (latest left to right)

Sri Lanka: DLWDL

Pakistan: WLDLW

 

Squads

Sri Lanka (from): 

Angelo Mathews (captain), Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Niroshan Dickwella (WK), Kithuruwan Vithanage, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Nuwan Pradeep, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Chanaka Welegedara

Pakistan (from):

Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (WK), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Talha, Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz.

 

Players to Watch

Sri Lanka

Mathews goes from strength to strength as a Test captain and seems to be one of those players who find responsibility improves their own game. Back-to-back centuries in England, followed up by three scores of 50-plus and an unbeaten 27 against a rampaging Dale Steyn have seen his stock rise. For the last few years, opposition probably thought the job was half done once Jayawardene and Sangakkara were back in the hatch, but Mathews coming in at six has changed that.

 

Pakistan

While Ajmal is clearly the king with the ball, Khan's presence in the Pakistani batting line-up is normally a guarantee of runs. Somehow the run machine remains under the radar when the world's best batsmen are discussed, but an average of 51.38 sustained over 89 Tests can't be ignored. Khan also has an excellent conversion rate, scoring 23 centuries including once against the Sri Lankans in their series in January.

 

Prediction

It is hard to see past Sri Lanka, who should hit the ground running, but if the wicket is a raging turner then Ajmal could be unplayable. Either way, given the volatile weather forecast, the draw seems the safest bet.

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