Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq, riding on a year’s success, vowed to remain positive in his bids to win the series against Sri Lanka as the teams prepare for the third Test starting here on Thursday.
Misbah hopes his team come down hard on Sri Lanka, as they did in the drawn first Test at Abu Dhabi and then during their crushing nine-wicket win in the second Test in Dubai last week.
“We will go for another win at Sharjah and I have told the players to go positively, in the same manner as they have been doing,” said Misbah, who has not lost a series since taking over in October last year.
The 37-year-old captain led Pakistan to a drawn 0-0 series against South Africa, before beating New Zealand 1-0, squaring the two-Test series against the West Indies 1-1 before beating Zimbabwe in a one-off Test.
Misbah said the key to Pakistan’s success has been their collective strength.
If Pakistan win the series 2-0, they will move up one spot to replace Sri Lanka at fifth in the Test rankings.
“The best thing about this team is that no one player is key for us. Everybody here is key, it’s a relatively new team but players are gaining experience and it’s helping the team,” said Misbah.
Maturing and improving
While praising Pakistan’s batting and bowling, Misbah is hoping their fielding will continue to improve.
“We are batting and bowling well in this series,” said Misbah, praising fast-rising middle-order batsmen Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq.
“Ali is doing well every time. He is getting mature with every innings,” said Misbah of Ali who scored a maiden hundred in Dubai. “Shafiq is also a very good find for us.”
Misbah’s counterpart, Tillakaratne Dilshan, has contrasting fortunes. He has yet to win a Test as captain since taking over in May this year.
“We might come with different tactics because we have to put our heads up and come back strongly,” said Dilshan. “We have to win the next Test and level the series.”
Despite the in-form Kumar Sangakkara, who hit an epic double hundred to help Sri Lanka draw the first Test and then topscored with 78 in his team’s low score of 239 in Dubai, Sri Lanka’s batting looks fragile.
“Batting is a worry,” said Dilshan. “In our last 13 Tests we have lost four and in all our losses we didn’t bat well.”
Dilshan, along with Sri Lanka’s most experienced batsman Mahela Jayawardene, have not been at their best having scored just 81 runs in the four innings between them.
Dilshan said his demotion was justified.
“I want to give some youngsters a chance at the top order so that is why I am batting at five,” said Dilshan.
Sri Lanka will be without wicket-keeper batsman Prasanna Jayawardene, who scored a valiant 120 in the first Test before returning home after injuring an abdominal muscle.
They might bring in off-spinner Suraj Randiv as the pitch of the Sharjah Stadium — which is staging a Test after nine years — is expected to take spin. Pakistan is likely to keep the second Test combination.
The last time a series was played here Pakistan lost both the Tests against Australia by an innings, the first inside two days after being dismissed for their lowest scores of 59 and 53. — AFP