Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sri Lanka search for clean sweep

Chaminda Vaas has been recalled to the squad, but who will be dropped if he plays?

Match facts

July 20-24, 2009
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)

The Big Picture

What could have been a tight series has already been won by Sri Lanka, thanks to three-and-a-half sessions of madness from Pakistan, during which they lost 27 wickets for 172 runs. Consequently they now stand one defeat short of what would be their first whitewash against Sri Lanka.

To their credit Sri Lanka, who are missing their best spinner and who had dropped their most successful fast bowler, have capitalised on the chances Pakistan provided. Sri Lanka have been a well-led side, comprising youngsters who have shown hunger to replace the incumbents for good. It will be a dream start for Kumar Sangakkara, in his first series as captain, if they can complete a clean sweep.

Sri Lanka have chosen to give their greatest fast bowler, Chaminda Vaas, a farewell Test now that the series has been decided.

Pakistan's problem has been that they able not been able to sustain their good work for long enough. Over the two Tests they have been a exaggerated version of West Indies in decline: in that they have taken only minutes in going from looking like a proper Test side to collapsing spectacularly like a school team. That middle ground, where teams arrest slides and resist momentum shifts, has been elusive.

Younis Khan, who refused before the series to make an excuse about being undercooked, has had a rethink, and has asked for some time before this team can become regular, consistent performers. Time in international cricket, though, comes dear. With every Test, their barren run grows, now at 10 win-less matches. They last won in January 2007, against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. In no time they will have an ODI series to salvage some pride, and they wouldn't want to go into that series 0-3 or 0-2.

Test form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka - WWDDW
Pakistan - LLDDD

Watch out for ...

Nuwan Kulasekara: Quietly Kulasekara has made this a defining series of his career. In Murali's absence, Vaas' dropping, and Mendis' ineffectiveness, Kulasekara has been a true leader of the attack, taking three four-fors already.

Mahela Jayawardene: It's been a quiet series for Jayawardene, but at SSC he comes home. He has scored more runs at the SSC than Don Bradman did at the SCG. Twenty Tests, 2198 runs, average of 81.40, and 832 of them in his last four innings there, Pakistan will need to make sure Jayawardene doesn't feel at home again.

Younis Khan: After his moment of madness, the reverse-sweep that kicked off a match-losing collapse at the P Sara Oval, Younis needs to set an example for a team he says is in rebuilding.

Team news

It will be interesting to see whose place Vaas takes. Both Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara have done commendably so far, and Kumar Sangakkara said Ajantha Mendis was not beyond being dropped. "There is a good possibility that we may go in with four seamers and leave out a bowler who has not done well," Sangakkara said. One of Thushara, Mendis and Angelo Mathews should make way.

Murali and Prasanna Jayawardene are still out of the squad, which means Tillakaratne Dilshan will continue his wicketkeeping duties. Malinda Warnapura gets another go at the top.

Sri Lanka (from) 1 Malinda Warnapura, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan (wk), 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Chaminda Vaas, 11 Thilan Thushara, 12 Ajantha Mendis.

Younis has spoken again and again about the need of not running the axe over this team. The middle order, though, has big questions to answer, and this could be a last chance for some of them.

Pakistan (likely) 1 Khurram Manzoor, 2 Fawad Alam, 3 Younis Khan (capt.), 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rauf, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Mohammad Aamer, 11 Saeed Ajmal.

Pitch and conditions

The SSC pitch has taken some rain over the last few days, and if it reacts to moisture like the pitch at Galle did, we could be in for a short match.

Stats and trivia

  • There has never been a clean-sweep of a three-match Pakistan-Sri Lanka series. In 1994 Pakistan won a two-match series 2-0 in the only clean-sweep in their contests.
  • In his first three matches in Test cricket, Ajnatha Mendis took 26 wickets. In the next five he has taken 13.
  • Sri Lanka have won five of their last seven Tests at the SSC, drawing the other two.
  • Quotes

    "The guys will be more focused on partnerships. Maybe we should play some games when wickets are falling or chat amongst ourselves to handle the pressure better. This is a personal thing. In international cricket you need to have more focus and motivation."
    Younis Khan is desperate to prevent it from pouring when it rains

    "It is always good to aim for a sweep, but you can't achieve that without playing your best cricket. We have been patchy, and so has Pakistan."