Pakistan and Sri Lanka resume hostilities for the second Test of their three-match series with the score still level at 0-0. The first match resulted in a draw after a solid second-innings effort from Sri Lanka.
What: Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka, 2nd Test
Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium
Date: Wednesday, January 8
Start time: 11 a.m. GMT
Live on: PTV Sports (Pakistan), CSN Sports (Sri Lanka)
Weather: The weather is actually reasonably pleasant in Dubai at this time of year with highs of around 23 degrees Celsius during the day. There is even some very light rain forecast for the first day, according to Accuweather. But it shouldn't rain enough to disrupt play for too long, if at all.
After Sri Lanka were bowled out for 204 in the first Test with Junaid Khan taking five wickets, the Test looked almost certain to have a result. Pakistan responded with 383 runs and tons for Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq.
Both those hundreds came at their usual glacial pace and, although some will say that their approach stifled the game, the opposite was true.
Younis and Misbah's 218-run stand, which came in 64.4 overs, came at 3.37 runs per over, more than reasonable in the circumstances. Pakistan accumulated 383 runs before being all out, but their collapse from 301-3 to 383 all out could have been much better.
Nonetheless, the hosts still had a sniff and would have fancied their chances at that stage.
Test cricket, though, is far more nuanced than simply edging ahead and Sri Lanka responded in their second innings with 480 runs as Angelo Mathews scored an equally slow, unbeaten 157 off 343 balls. Neither of his 100-run partnership stands came at more than 2.90 an over.
Slow and steady saved Sri Lanka and Pakistan will be quite irked with the outcome after starting so well.
The two teams shift to Dubai for the second game, a ground which has only seen one draw in all of the five Tests it has hosted. It's a spin-friendly turf, as seen in the last Test played at the venue when Imran Tahir, the South African spinner, picked up eight wickets there last year.
Both sides pack plenty of spinners who can whizz, plonk and plop the ball around to fox batsmen. Both teams also have enough experience to deal with these kinds of conditions adequately.
Things are made worse by the fact that, due to the looming rain, the pitch might not turn as much as it would in summer and if both sides apply themselves as they did in the first Test, a draw could very well be on the cards once again.
Pakistan coach, Dav Whatmore, bemoaned Pakistan's complacency in the first Test, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo's Umar Farooq.
"At that point, there were still nine sessions in the game and the reality is that we lost regular wickets. We could have got more runs but we left the door open," Whatmore said of his side going from being 301-3 to 383 all out.
There have been so many positives to take through to the Dubai Test. Our top-order batting carried on with the form they had been in in the recent limited-overs series. Debutant Ahmed Shehzad had a pretty good game and he knows that and young [Bilawal] Bhatti demonstrated that he's got the ability to take wickets.
We wanted to sort out the top order sooner rather than later. One of the areas of concern was negotiating the new ball and we did that well. We didn't lose a wicket until say 20 overs and they [openers] made good contributions, but we need consistency.
Pakistan have a chance to show that they have indeed taken some lessons from the first Test while Sri Lanka will be feeling more settled and will surely put up a much tougher fight.
Spin wizard Saeed Ajmal will be key for Pakistan and, after being whacked for 115 runs in the second innings of the first Test, he'll want to make a statement. He has 34 wickets at an average of 20.11 in the five Tests he has played in Dubai and took eight against Sri Lanka the last time the two sides met here.
Sri Lanka's batting will be brimming with confidence after the first Test, even though it took them until the second innings to get going. Mahela Jayawardene scored five and zero in the Test, and he needs to find some form. If he can engineer a big innings, Sri Lanka will be in a good place. The last time Jayawardene batted at Dubai, he scored just five and six; if there ever was an opportune time to make a statement, it's now.
Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Adnan Akmal, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Rahat ali, Mohammad Talha.
Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Prasanna Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Vishwa Fernando.
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