DUBAI - Pakistan are hoping that both the sun and their two spinners shine in Dubai to give them an edge in the second Test against Sri Lanka starting Wednesday. Persistent rain in the emirate forced the teams to cancel their practice on Tuesday. But the forecast is clear for the next five days. "Hopefully it will be better on Wednesday and we can have a proper five-day game," said Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq.
"I haven't seen the wicket because it is covered but usually it's a good Test in Dubai." Misbah is counting on spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman to give Pakistan a series lead, after the first of three Tests ended in a draw in Abu Dhabi last week. Ajmal toiled for 49 wicketless overs in Sri Lanka's second innings in the first Test, as skipper Angelo Mathews hit a career best 157 not out.
His fighting knock helped Sri Lanka erase Pakistan's 179-run lead and set them a 302-run victory target. They finished on 158-2. It was the first time in Ajmal's 31-Test career that the 36-year-old had bowled more than 17 overs in a second innings and finished without a wicket. Ajmal has taken 24 wickets at Dubai stadium, including seven against England which helped Pakistan inflict a 3-0 series defeat on the then-world number one team in 2012. Misbah is expecting a spin-friendly pitch. "If you look at the history of this ground, this pitch slows down and gives something to the spinners. Especially, both our spinners had really good success here," he said. Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by nine wickets in Dubai on their way to a 1-0 series win in 2011.
In that game Ajmal took eight wickets and Rehman four. Rehman, a left-arm spinner, is likely to replace fast bowler Rahat Ali, who went wicketless in the first Test. Despite centuries from Misbah and Younis Khan last week, Pakistan will also look to bolster their batting after they slumped from 329-4 to 383 all out in their first innings in Abu Dhabi. "We need to work on our batting more as we should have got 450-odd runs on the board to have a big lead to put pressure on the opposition," said Misbah.
Pakistan have the option of replacing opener Khurram Manzoor with Shan Masood. The recalled Sarfraz Ahmed will keep wicket after Adnan Akmal had to return home following a fractured finger in the first Test. Sri Lanka have summoned one-day opener Kusal Perera after Lahiru Thirimanne failed to recover from an ankle injury. They have not sought a replacement for paceman Nuwan Kulasekara, who returned home with a hamstring injury. Sri Lanka will be counting on the vastly experienced Mahela Jayawardene to come good after he failed in the first Test, managing just five and nought.
Spinner Rangana Herath will also look for a better return after getting only four wickets in Abu Dhabi. And off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake will try to secure his place in the side after winning support from his skipper.
"We all know Sachithra is a good spinner. Playing in his first Test, it was not easy playing on a pitch like this," said Mathews after Senanayake went wicketless in Abu Dhabi. Mathews, who scored 91 in the first innings before his unbeaten century in the second, was delighted with his own form. "I was a little bit under pressure and I am happy that I justified my place," he said.
PAKISTAN: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Younus Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Rahat Ali, M Talha.
SRI LANKA: Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Perera, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Vishwa Fernando.