Pakistan eye successful return to Test arena

February 20th, 2009 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, Feb 20 (IANS) Pakistan will make a welcome return to the Test arena after almost 14 months by hosting Sri Lanka in a two-match series opener beginning Saturday on their favourite hunting ground - Karachi’s National Stadium.

It last played a Test in December 2007 against India in Bangalore but was left without a single Test in 2008 when Australia pulled out of its tour of Pakistan because of security apprehensions.

But Pakistani players and officials believe that lack of Test practice will not affect the team’s performance in the two Tests against Sri Lanka, a side that beat the hosts by 234 runs in the ODI series decider last month in Lahore.

“We are all very focused,” said Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach. “Naturally things are a bit different because we haven’t played any Test in a long time but my boys will not let that fact bother them in this series,” added Intikhab.

Much has changed for Pakistan since the Bangalore Test. It has a new captain in Younis Khan while the country’s premier batsman Mohammad Yousuf is out of the picture because of his association with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL). Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar is unavailable because of injury.

But Younis is confident he is in a position to achieve positive results. “When I came back after 13 months in the last series against Sri Lanka (in Pakistan) I scored a 100,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we will give a similar showing against Sri Lanka as a team,” he said.

At least two Pakistani youngsters will earn their Test cap tomorrow as the host team has keep three uncapped players in the 12-man squad for the opening Test.

Chances are that local boy Khurram Manzoor, a right-handed opener, will make his debut along with either Sohail Khan or Mohammad Talha — both fast bowlers. There is also a possibility that all three might play Saturday.

Younis’s Sri Lanka counterpart Mahela Jayawardene is also confident that his team will click the way it did in the ODI series against Pakistan here last month.

Sri Lanka have three of their last four Test series and drawn the other and Jayawardene is hopeful that the good run of form will continue in Pakistan — traditionally not a good hunting place for his team in Tests.

He has all reasons to be confident. With veteran pacer Chaminda Vaas joining spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, his bowling attack is looking good. Senior batsman Kumar Sangakkara is in fine nick, something that he proved in a two-day practice game earlier this week here when he scored a fluent century.

Jayawardene has not scored many runs in recent times but he is confident of doing well in the opening Test. “I’m hitting the ball well in the nets,” he told reporters at the National Stadium Friday.

On what is looking like a good batting track, both sides are looking forward to their bowlers to deliver the good.

“It you bowlers who help you win matches,” said Younis. Whether his bowlers will do that, remains to be seen.


Pakistan (from) — Younis Khan (captain), Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul, Sohail Khan, Mohammad Talha and Danish Kaneria.

Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Tharanga Paranavitana, Thilan Samaraweera, Malinda Warnapura, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Ajantha Mendis, Dilhara Fernando, Farveez Maharoof, Thilan Thushara, Suranga Lakmal, Prasanna Jayawardene.

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