Pakistan and Sri Lanka go into the first Test of the three match series with different agendas when they clash in Abu Dhabi from Tuesday. Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq is hoping his team can build on their recent good performance while Sri Lanka are looking to end their drought in Test cricket.
The 37-year-old Misbah took over as Test captain following a spot-fixing scandal in England last year and has since batted superbly to help Pakistan draw series against a formidable South Africa and the West Indies.
He also lifted Pakistan to away wins over New Zealand and Zimbabwe and hopes to carry on the good work against Sri Lanka, who have lost their last two series against England and Australia – both 1-0 – since Tillakaratne Dilshan took over earlier this year.
Misbah hopes his team will continue their recent winning streak.
“The morale is good, and everyone knows his role,” Misbah said on Sunday.
“Cricket is a team game and since everyone knows his role we have been consistent in Tests and building on.”
Misbah leads a batting line-up which is a mixture of youth and experience with veteran Younis Khan and talented players like Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq.
Since taking over as captain Misbah has scored 704 in eight Tests at 78.22 and will be Pakistan`s mainstay against the Sri Lankan spin duo of Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv – both trying to overcome the loss of legendary off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
Sri Lanka have not won a Test, losing three and drawing eight Tests, since Muralitharan bade farewell to Test cricket after taking a world record of 800 wickets. But Misbah said Sri Lanka were still a good team.
“Sri Lanka no doubt is one of the best teams, especially in these conditions so we have to play well to beat them,” said Misbah.
Dilshan, 34, is looking to improve his captaincy as well as his batting form after contributing just one half-century against Australia, an 83 in the final Test at Colombo last month.
“We have a very young bowling unit and I think they are getting experience, so I hope they are now ready to do their job and establish the team in the Tests,” said Dilshan.
Apart from Dilshan, Sri Lanka have the experience of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara — both in the twilight of their careers — and all-rounders Angelo Mathews, Tharanga Paranavitana and Prasanna Jayawardene to put solid totals on the board.
Ironically, bowlers from the both the sides will have to toil hard as wickets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been on the slower side, but could help spinners on the final two days.
Pakistan have a better pace attack with Umar Gul (125 wickets) boosting the department after being rested in the one-off Test against Zimbabwe, with left-arm pacemen Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan, and Aizaz Cheema in support.
Pakistan will also look to Saeed Ajmal in the spin department.
The remaining two Tests will be played in Dubai (October 26-30) and Sharjah (November 3-7). The Test series will be followed by five one-day internationals and one Twenty20 match.
Pakistan had hoped to host Sri Lanka but an attack on a Karachi military base forced the Islanders to turn down the invitation in May this year and the series was shifted to UAE. International cricket has been suspended in Pakistan since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March 2009.