Sri Lanka take on Pakistan in the final Test of their two-match series at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo, starting on Thursday, looking to maintain their slender 1-0 lead.
Not only that, but the home side will also be desperate to ensure that Mahela Jayawardene’s 149th and last Test for his country is a joyous affair in front of his adoring public in the capital.
Meanwhile, opposition captain Misbah-ul-Haq will be equally determined to spoil the veteran’s farewell party by winning the game and squaring the series, a result that would prevent the tourists slipping from third to sixth in the International Cricket Council world rankings.
What: Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan
Where: Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo
When: Thursday, August 13, 5.30 a.m. BST, 10 a.m. local 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
Sri Lanka: AD Mathews*, HDRL Thirimanne, N Dickwella†, RMS Eranga, B Fernando, PLS Gamage, HMRKB Herath, DPMD Jayawardene, FDM Karunaratne, MDK Perera, KTGD Prasad, KC Sangakkara, JK Silva, WU Tharanga, KDK Vithanage, UWMBCA Welegedara
Pakistan Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq*, Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Junaid Khan, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Sarfraz Ahmed†, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal†, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan
Sri Lanka (last five matches, starting with the most recent: WDLWD)
Despite losing 1-0 at home to the No. 1-ranked Test team in the world—South Africa—last month, Angelo Mathews’ men have still been in impressive form in the longer version of the game so far this year.
And were this ever-evolving Sri Lankan outfit to avoid defeat over the course of the next five days at the SSC, then they will have beaten both England away and Pakistan at home since June.
Pakistan (last five matches, starting with the most recent: LWLDL)
For the tourists, this is their first Test series since they drew 1-1 with the same opponents in the United Arab Emirates over Christmas, which may explain some of their apparent ring rust.
However, if Pakistan want to maintain their current ranking of third in the world, then nothing but victory will do in Colombo.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene
To say that Jayawardene enjoys batting at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground would be something of an understatement, with the right-hander making 165 in his previous Test appearance there against South Africa in July.
In fact, no other player in the history of the game has scored more runs at a single venue than the 37-year-old has here, with the man born in Colombo needing just a further 137 to bring up 3,000 at the SSC.
And it would be a brave person to bet against the silky-smooth batsman bringing down the curtain on his illustrious and run-laden career with what would be a 12th century in only 27 Tests at the ground, and 35th overall.
Pakistan: Saeed Ajmal
Despite Ajmal having been reported to the ICC for a suspected illegal bowling action after Pakistan’s seven-wicket loss in the first Test at Galle, the magical off-spinner can still play international cricket while he undergoes tests within a 21-day period.
All of which will be of huge relief to the tourists, as they go in search of the win they need to level the series—especially in light of how hard it has traditionally been over the years to prise batsmen out at the SSC.
And given that the 36-year-old picked up five of Sri Lanka’s nine wickets that fell in the first innings of last week’s opening contest, then you really feel that the mystery tweaker is key to their chances of winning in Colombo.
According to the BBC, it is expected to be hot and humid in Colombo between now and Monday, with bright sunshine and temperatures ranging between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius.
However, there is also a good chance of some heavy rain at times, especially at night, which could in turn reduce the amount of playing time available to both teams.
It should be hard, flat and good for batting, but with less assistance for spin bowlers than in the last Test to be played on it against the Proteas last month.