Novice Hafeez plots Pakistan comeback against Sri Lanka

Mohammad Hafeez

GALLE: Pakistan’s stand-in captain Mohammad Hafeez is confident his young side will regroup after the one-day defeats to challenge Sri Lanka in the Test series starting on Friday (today). Hafeez, 31, was thrown into the deep end when regular captain Misbahul Haq was banned from the first Test in Galle due to Pakistan’s slow over-rate in the final one-dayer in Colombo on Monday.

Misbah was penalised for his team falling three overs short, which International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Chris Broad said was a “serious over-rate offence” in one-day internationals. Hafeez, who was made his country’s Twenty20 skipper ahead of the current tour, has played only 26 Tests and never captained Pakistan before in the five-day format. But the all-rounder brushed aside the 3-1 loss in the one-dayers, saying Pakistan were determined to do their best in the three Tests. “Misbah’s calm influence will be missed, but it is a great honour to lead my country in Test cricket and I am ready for the challenge,” Hafeez said on Thursday. Pakistan have won seven of their last nine Tests, including a brilliant 3-0 whitewash of top-ranked England in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.

It is a remarkable record for a side that has been forced to play abroad due to other teams’ refusal to tour Pakistan because of security concerns. Pakistan’s batting will revolve around Younis Khan, whose 76 Test appearances make him the only player in the side to have played more than 50 games. The tourists will bank on their potent bowling attack led by prolific off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who was the world’s leading Test wicket-taker last year with 50 scalps in eight matches. This year, Ajmal has already grabbed 24 wickets in three Tests against England, and remains the main threat for Sri Lanka alongside left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman. Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said Ajmal and Rehman “could be a handful” in any conditions, but warned the tourists that the Galle wicket was not as spin-friendly as previously after being relaid last year.

Sri Lanka have won just two of their previous 14 Tests and lost six, but both those wins came in their last four matches, indicating a revival after the retirement of world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan in 2010. Sri Lanka will look to their experienced batting line-up of Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera to put up a big first innings total for their bowlers to take advantage of. The Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS), made optional by the ICC in touring contests, will not be used in the series. The second Test will be played in Colombo from June 30 and the third in Pallekele from July 8.

Teams:

Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Chanaka Welegedara, Suraj Randiv, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis.

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Ayub Dogar, Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Sami, Faisal Iqbal, Junaid Khan, Afaq Raheem, Mohammad Ayub, Aizaz Cheema. -Dailytimes