Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bell set to be unchallenged on recall

Comeback kid: Ian Bell has big boots to fill as he replaces the injured Kevin Pietersen.

England will give themselves bowling options ahead of the third Test against Australia at Edgbaston, but the batting line-up is likely to be set in stone when the selectors announce their squad on Sunday. Ian Bell will be confirmed as Kevin Pietersen's replacement with no further batting cover expected to be included while Steve Harmison, who the Daily Mirror reports will announce his international retirement after the Ashes, and Monty Panesar are set to retain their places.

Bell has been the spare batsman in the previous Tests and Andy Flower confirmed after the Lord's victory that he was next in line for a berth. Now that Pietersen has been ruled out for the series he will return to the side for the first time since being dropped following England's defeat against West Indies, at Sabina Park, in February.

He paid the price for an unconvincing run at No. 3 and a particularly limp shot in the second innings collapse in Jamaica. At the start of the summer he was told to show "more hunger" for a recall and has subsequently made 647 runs in the Championship at 64.70, although his haul was dented by a double failure in the recent match against Hampshire where he made 7 and 0.

The selectors may have been tempted to include another batting option in the party, but Bell is set to be unchallenged. "There are no injury problems as such, so we probably won't need to do that," national selector Geoff Miller said. "We had question marks to cover in the last squad but I don't foresee needing to do that here."

However, Bell's position is partly eased due to the lack of outstanding candidates elsewhere. If further injuries were to deplete the batting order, Robert Key, Joe Denly, Stephen Moore and Owais Shah would be the likely names for a call-up. Key has recently returned to form with a career-best 270, Denly and Moore impressed for England Lions against the Australians and Shah made a hundred for Middlesex last week.

There is still the question of where Bell will bat, but the least disruption would come with a straight swap for Pietersen at No.4. The other options are to return at first drop and push the struggling Ravi Bopara down the order or promote Paul Collingwood and put Bell at No. 5.

Although England's attack performed impressively at Lord's there is still a chance changes will be made. Andrew Flintoff's knee will be assessed when the team meets up in Birmingham although the allrounder has said he is confident of being available.

Steve Rouse, the Edgbaston groundsman, described the pitch has being like "jelly" earlier in the week, and said it would be a challenge to bring it up to standard for the Test after recent poor weather, so the inclusion of Harmison and Panesar will allow England to cover all bases.

However, a slow, low surface would decrease the chances of a recall for Harmison, who according to the newspaper reports, wants a final opportunity against Australia before ending his England career for a life in county cricket with Durham.

Likely squad Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wk), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar

ICC should let bowlers 'prepare' the ball - Donald

Allan Donald wants bowlers to be allowed to work on the ball without using anything artificial.

Allan Donald, the former South African fast bowler, has said bowlers must be allowed to "prepare" the ball - ball-tampering, in other words - to redress the balance between bat and ball and protect the "dying breed" from increasingly lifeless pitches.

Speaking to Cricinfo on Friday, Donald was asked if he would recommend legalising ball tampering. He said: "The ICC would shoot me for saying it but, with the wickets that we play on and the dying breed fast bowlers are becoming on these flatter wickets, I would say we do need some sort of defence mechanism, something to fall back on to say 'Right, we can do this. We can now prepare this ball to go'."

Donald, currently the Warwickshire coach, knows, though, that his plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. "That [legalising ball-tampering] quite simply would never happen," he said.

Ball tampering was a raging issue in the 1990s, a period that coincided with Donald's rise as leader of the South African bowling attack. He agreed that bowlers had altered the condition of the ball in various ways to get prodigious reverse swing. "There is no doubt guys tampered with the ball," he said of the fast bowlers of his time. He recalled one incident in the mid-1990s when he saw a former fast bowler pick a little chunk of leather live on the television during a Test match against England. "The guy was just chipping away with his nails and I couldn't believe how he could get away with it," Donald said. "The commentator, a famous former player, said "Steady on", but he [bowler] denied it later. Let's not kid ourselves, there is no question it still goes on."

To get reverse swing, one must rough one side of the ball while polishing the other. "One [popular] way to do it is to get the ball into the dirt," Donald said, a method easily practised on rough subcontinent surfaces where the ball, especially the white one, soon gets scuffed up. "Even the red ball, in places like India, we found, did not take too long to reverse."

England also used reverse swing to win back the Ashes at home in 2005. "Yes, I remember [Andrew] Flintoff and [Simon] Jones do it beautifully to swing it both ways especially in Old Trafford by chucking the ball into the foothold."

Donald isn't the first fast bowler to make this case; in the mid-1990s, Sir Richard Hadlee had also asked for ball-tampering to be legalised. "As long as the bowlers or fielders use whatever means they have on their persons, I don't see anything wrong with it. I'm talking about the use of a finger nail to scratch the ball, not bottle tops or those sorts of things," Hadlee wrote in a newspaper column at the time.

Donald agreed the best method, if the ICC relented, was to rip the ball without artificial help. "I wouldn't bite it," he said with a chuckle. "One way is if the ball gets scuffed on one side,and there is a tiny little chunk that is missing, you pick it up and just keep that side dry and keep working on it, while shining the other side very heavily without putting any moisture. The whole team needs to keep track of this and should know the ball is reversing and they need to shine one side. The bowler, because he is bowling, should keep his wet hands on this side while keeping the other side dry. That's all you need."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan (2009) 3rd Test Day 5 Highlights

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Presentation Ceremony

Sangakkara helps Sri Lanka to a draw

Kumar Sangakkara remorselessly ground the bowling into the SSC dust.

In the end, neither team wanted it badly enough. Sri Lanka couldn't quite summon up the courage for one final dash, and Pakistan spent much of the afternoon merely going through the motions. When play was called off with the 15 mandatory overs to be bowled, Sri Lanka were 101 short of the 492-run target, and Pakistan had toiled all day for just one wicket. Kumar Sangakkara's 19th Test century was the story of the day, but even his performance was overshadowed by an utterly placid pitch. After 21 wickets fell in the opening two days, the bowlers on both sides could manage just 12 in the next nine sessions.

When Angelo Mathews struck a couple of boundaries soon after reaching his half-century after tea, there was the prospect of a Twenty20-like thrash in the final hour, but ultimately Sri Lanka decided to settle for the 2-0 series win.

With Sri Lanka resuming from their overnight 183 for 3, Pakistan would have fancied their chances of pulling off a consolation victory. But with Sangakkara remorselessly grinding the bowling into the SSC dust, and Thilan Samaraweera contributing a classy 73 to a partnership of 122, Younis Khan was left to forlornly shuffle a tiring bowling pack.

As he showed in Hobart not so long ago, Sangakkara is capable of dazzling counter-attacks in pressure situations. This, on a day when survival rather than urgency was the priority, was all rearguard and little flair, with occupation of the crease the main mantra. The odd languid drive through the covers, or the precise sweep to the spinners would occasionally reveal some intent, but by and large, circumspection was the name of the game.

With Mathews showing only brief glimpses of his shotmaking potential, the run-rate slowed quite a bit after Samaraweera's dismissal soon after lunch. He had been afflicted with cramp, and was then struck a glancing blow on the helmet by Mohammad Aamer before a doosra from Saeed Ajmal was nicked behind.

Apart from a brain-fade where he nearly handled the ball after digging out a yorker from Younis, Samaraweera had constantly challenged the bowlers, never allowing them to settle into a rhythm. Danish Kaneria, the scourge of Sri Lanka's first innings, was attacked and only Ajmal managed to exercise any real control.

Younis was also badly let down by Umar Gul, who struggled with no-balls and served up dross with the second new-ball. Each mistake was pounced on by Samaraweera, whose classical drives invoked another age. Pakistan still had a slight edge, but with no Flintoff-like talisman to turn to, Younis' brow became increasingly furrowed as the afternoon wore on. Sangakkara's smile only grew wider.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Surgeon issues Pietersen recovery warning

Kevin Pietersen struggled throughout the Lord's Test, and will now miss the rest of the summer.

Kevin Pietersen could find himself in a race to be fit for England's Champions Trophy campaign in September, after a London-based orthopaedic surgeon warned that he could need considerably longer than the estimated six weeks to recover from the operation he underwent on his right Achilles tendon on Wednesday.

"Kevin Pietersen has a serious problem with his Achilles tendon known as chronic tendinopathy, which hasn't responded to the usual measures of physiotherapy and injections," Dr Simon Moyes, who works out of the Wellington Hospital in St John's Wood, told the Press Association. "Less than five percent of patients end up needing surgery for this condition and therefore he is most unfortunate."

Pietersen was booked in for an operation on Wednesday morning, after struggling throughout England's historic victory in the second Test, in which they took a 1-0 lead in the Ashes series with their first win over Australia at Lord's since 1934. He was never comfortable at the crease, nor in the field, although his twin scores of 32 and 44 took his career tally against Australia to a formidable 1116 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 50.72.

In a statement, the ECB's Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, said that Pietersen had been operated on by a leading surgeon who had been specially flown in from Sweden, and that the early signs were that the operation had been routine.

"The operation involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon," said Peirce. "Kevin will look to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to ensure there is no risk of recurrence. This is expected to be approximately six weeks but will be taken at an appropriate pace following constant review."

Moyes, however, warned that there was no guaranteeing a quick fix to Achilles injuries, and said that Pietersen and England might have to be patient in his recovery period. "The surgery to the tendon is not always predictable and involves cleaning inflammatory tissue, necrotic tissue and neovascular tissue - i.e. new blood vessels," he said. "I believe it will be at minimum of three months before he is fully recovered. Even then there is still a risk that the surgery may not work."

"As an England cricketer the Ashes are the pinnacle of the game so I'm absolutely devastated to be missing the rest of this series," said Pietersen. "I hate missing matches for England and especially during an Ashes summer but now that the decision has been made to undergo surgery I'm confident I can return to the England team injury-free following a course of rehabilitation."

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan (2009) 3rd Test Day 4 Highlights

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan (2009) 3rd Test Day 3 Highlights

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Pietersen ruled out of Ashes

Next in line?: Kevin Pietersen struggled throughout the Lord's Test, and will now miss the rest of the summer .

Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the Ashes after undergoing surgery on his long-standing Achilles tendon injury. Pietersen was assessed on Wednesday morning by a leading specialist, and the decision was made to undergo surgery which means he will miss up to six weeks.

The news comes as a massive blow to England's morale and momentum after a week in which they finally ended a 75-year jinx in beating Australia at Lord's, and so went 1-0 up in an Ashes series for the first time since 1997. Pietersen's contribution to the match was muted, with twin scores of 32 and 44, but it nevertheless took his career tally against Australia to a formidable 1116 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 50.72.

England, however, will now have to make do without that prowess. ECB Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, said: "Following a consultation, involving scans and testing, with the world's leading Achilles specialist, Kevin Pietersen today underwent surgery on his right Achilles tendon.

"The operation involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon and appears, at this early stage, to have been routine. Kevin will look to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to ensure there is no risk of recurrence. This is expected to be approximately six weeks but will be taken at an appropriate pace following constant review.

"Despite conventional conservative treatments to the tendon with trial periods of rest and rehabilitation, Kevin continued to be in significant discomfort and is currently unable to run or even walk comfortably. He had a strong desire to get through the Ashes series but despite this he has recently been unable to achieve a maximum level of performance.

"A number of short-term measures were considered but having been reviewed by the specialist, who flew into London from Sweden specifically, it was felt that anything else would put the tendon at risk and jeopardise his long-term recovery."

Pietersen said: "As an England cricketer the Ashes are the pinnacle of the game so I'm absolutely devastated to be missing the rest of this series.

"Up until now the Achilles injury has been manageable but it recently reached the point where we needed to look at other options in terms of treatment. I hate missing matches for England and especially during an Ashes summer but now that the decision has been made to undergo surgery I'm confident I can return to the England team injury-free following a course of rehabilitation.

"I was pleased with the previous course of treatment as it allowed me to take part in this Ashes series but unfortunately the injury has recently deteriorated. To leave a winning dressing room at this time is heart breaking but it wouldn't be fair to the team or myself to continue given the severity of the injury. I'll be supporting the team closely and wish them the best of luck as they look to build on the brilliant win at Lord's and reclaim the Ashes."

In Pietersen's absence, England are likely to offer a recall to Ian Bell, who was dropped in February after a run of low scores, but who has been in fine form for Warwickshire this season, with 640 runs at 80.00 before today, when he made 7 against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.

"I am desperate to play," said Bell. "Having faced the Aussies before I know what to expect from them, and once you have appeared at Test level you want to carry on playing against the best players in the world."

The Australian camp maintained the line of the coach Tim Nielsen, who said on Tuesday he was not concerned by what was happening in England's squad. Shane Watson, the allrounder, said losing a key player like Pietersen "makes it very difficult".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka - 3rd Test - Day 2 - Cricket Highlights

Part 1

Part 2

Flower confident England can win without stars

Andrew Flintoff had a tough physical game at Lord's, and England remain wary about his long-term fitness.

England's coach, Andy Flower, is confident that his team can build on the success and momentum they took from their historic victory over Australia at Lord's on Monday, regardless of whether their two star players, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, overcome their fitness concerns.

Amid the euphoria of England's first Ashes win at Lord's for 75 years, a result that gave them a 1-0 lead over Australia for the first time since 1997, there have been growing concerns about the ability of both Flintoff and Pietersen to take the field in the third Test at Edgbaston, which starts on July 30.

Pietersen, who struggled through the Lord's Test and made a laboured 44 from 101 deliveries in the second innings, will see a specialist later in the week, amid reports in some daily papers that he has already been ruled out of the contest. Though Flower denied that that was the case, he admitted that the prospect of surgery on Pietersen's troublesome Achilles tendon could not be ruled out at this stage.

"Kev is seeing a specialist later this week, they'll assess his Achilles problem, and we'll just get the expert advice and take it from there," said Flower. "I'd rather not make a prediction [about his fitness], I'll just let the medical guys make their decision. I don't know if an operation is the right action to take, but those sorts of decisions will be made by the end of the week."

Pietersen required four injections to get through the Lord's Test, and admitted at the weekend that the injury - the first significant problem of his career - has been playing on his mind "all day and every day". The same could not, however, be said of Flintoff, whose immense performance on the final morning at Lord's propelled England to victory with 10 unstinting overs off the reel.

Flintoff's final figures of 5 for 92 enabled him to become only the sixth player to score a century and take five wickets in Test cricket at Lord's, a belated statistical accolade in a career that has often gone under-rewarded. But Flower admitted to feelings of unease as he watched his star player thunder in in the closing stages of the match, with the result more or less sewn up already.

"Fred had a tough physical game," said Flower. "I was sitting up there thinking I'd quite like to see him taking a break, but he carried on, and he feels strong, and it worked out okay in the end ... I hope. Chatting to him afterwards he was very bullish about being ready for the third Test, but obviously with his injury record we have to be careful about wear and tear on his body, and he will be reassessed."

Regardless of what the doctors make of his conditions, with Steve Harmison finding menacing form for Durham in the County Championship, and James Anderson producing a superb four-wicket spell to help roll Australia over for 215 in their first innings at Lord's, Flower was confident that England have the fast-bowling resources to see them through an arduous summer.

"Flintoff is a world-class performer as we know, so if he's out of the side, of course that's a blow," said Flower. "But we've got a few fast bowlers waiting in the wings that we know can play international cricket, and can be very successful. Obviously we want Flintoff in the side, but we'll see if his body is up to it. If not there are other guys that can do good jobs for us. This is an Ashes series, a Test series, it's not his farewell series."

With a ten-day break between matches, England's players have got a timely opportunity to patch up their wounds before Edgbaston - and that includes the seamer Graham Onions, who was struck on the elbow while batting in England's first innings, and was said to be experiencing a lot of pain when he straightened his arm. "I should imagine he'll be fine because of the rest time available," said Flower.

"Usually the man involved knows his body best and can feel certain things," he added. "If the guys are fit enough to get through and contribute to winning Test matches, then they'll be selected. If they are not, it's not a tough decision to make, they are just not fit enough to be selected." Flower confirmed that, if Pietersen was unable to take part at Edgbaston, then Ian Bell - a squad member for the past two Tests - would be the logical man to stand in.

"When asked before the series if we believed we could win the series, I said yes," said Flower. "Whether we will win or not, we don't know. The guys are confident, but we'll have to play very good cricket. We're playing against the No.1 side in the world. We know they will regroup and come back strongly at us, so we've also got to regroup. Sometimes you can get distracted as much by winning as by losing. We have to regroup this following week as well, and hit them hard at Edgbaston."

Flintoff ends England's 75-year wait

Andrew Flintoff strikes a pose after dismissing Brad Haddin on his way to a five-wicket haul on his final Test appearance at Lord's.

In his final act at the home of cricket, Andrew Flintoff broke England's 75-year Lord's curse with his first five-wicket haul since the Ashes-clinching Oval Test of 2005. It was, unquestionably, a performance that will enhance his already mythical status within English cricket, but more pertinently for now, delivered England to a 1-0 series lead heading into Edgbaston.

Victory was sealed 17 minutes before lunch when Graeme Swann, another major contributor on Monday, pegged back Mitchell Johnson's middle stump with the Australian total at 406. The wicket prompted scenes of jubilation not witnessed at Lord's in decades, and a collective furrowing of brows in the Australian dressing rooms as the series momentum shifted sharply in the hosts' favour.

Flintoff, who bowled unchanged for ten overs from the Pavilion End to claim three of the five Australian wickets to fall on Monday, broke first from England's celebratory huddle to shake the hands of the vanquished Johnson and his batting partner, Ben Hilfenhaus. It was a scene that mirrored the final act of the corresponding Test four years ago, and envoked a spirit of cricket that had been bruised over the previous four days.

Having spent the better part of Sunday evening chasing leather to all corners of Thomas Lord's playing field, England could scarcely have began the final day's play more positively. James Anderson's first delivery of the morning cannoned into Michael Clarke's thigh and prompted a raucous lbw appeal from both bowler and slips cordon, which was turned down by Billy Doctrove. Two more unsuccessful appeals reverberated around the grandstands before the first over was out, as Anderson probed the off stump at pace, precision and just a hint of movement away from the right-handers.

Flintoff displayed similar menace steaming in from his favoured Pavilion End, as 25,000 screaming voices drowned out the pain of a knee that, after four years of numbing injections, now resembles a pin cushion. Only a famous exit from Lord's would do for "Super Fred", and England's allrounder duly obliged with the wicket of Brad Haddin from his fourth ball of the day.

Haddin was seldom ruffled on Sunday, mixing punchy strokes forward of the wicket with deft glides behind, but a new ball and an inspired Flintoff would prove an irresistible combination. Fast and full, Flintoff coaxed Haddin into an edge that flew to Paul Collingwood at second slip, terminating his innings for an impressive 80 but placing Australia in precisely the position they had hoped to avoid. Flintoff, the victor, did not so much celebrate the dismissal as assume Nelson's Trafalgar Square pose. A candidate, if ever there was one, for the fourth plinth.

Johnson's early exchanges inspired little confidence that he would be the man to steer Australia to an improbable victory. Johnson half-ducked, half-stabbed at his first delivery from Flintoff and, as with his bowling, looked a shadow of the figure who compiled unbeaten innings of 96 and 123 against the South Africans four months prior. Edges off the bowling of Flintoff and Stuart Broad fell inches in front of the slips, and Johnson may well have found pavilion-bound had Flintoff not overstepped before wrapping him on the pads with a straight full-toss that struck in line.

Clarke, save for the odd Flintoff bouncer, was a picture of poise in the first half-hour of play, leaving judiciously outside his off stump and driving with sublime placement and timing. The fluency of his batting contrasted greatly with the nervous Johnson, although the latter eventually found something resembling a groove as the hour progressed.

As the first drinks break loomed, Clarke might have entertained notions of bettering his previous highest Test score, famously struck on his Test debut five years ago, however a change of bowling prompted a change in his fortunes. Swann had spent much of the previous evening bowling a faster, flatter line, but found success with a slower, looping delivery that dropped under the bat of the advancing Clarke and spun just enough into the off stump. Devastated, Clarke did not lift his head, nor raise his bat, despite a generous reception on his journey back to the Pavilion.

The loss of their sole centurion while still 165 runs in arrears of England was the death knell for Australia's aspirations of a world-record run chase. And when Nathan Hauritz was bowled shouldering arms to Flintoff the next over, an England victory was all but assured.

Johnson, by now, had found his batting form and blazed his way to a quick-fire half-century. But it would be in vain. Flintoff claimed his third career five-wicket haul by bowling Peter Siddle, and Swann rounded off the innings, and the match, by scything through Johnson's defences.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 3rd Test Colombo Day 1 Highlights

Part 1

part 2

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."

Chaminda Vaas to retire from Tests

Chaminda Vaas will bow out of Tests.

Chaminda Vaas the Sri Lanka fast bowler, has announced he will retire from Tests after the third match against Pakistan in Colombo starting Monday. He said he will continue to play one-dayers and Twenty20s till the 2011 World Cup.

"I am officially retiring from Test cricket after the third Test against Pakistan, but will continue playing one-day and Twenty20 matches till the 2011 World Cup," he told reporters in Colombo, but declined to take any questions.

It will end a fine career by one of Sri Lanka's most persevering and successful fast bowlers. In 110 Tests he has taken 354 wickets at 29.40 after making his debut against Pakistan in 1994 - the second-highest Sri Lankan wicket-taker - along with 400 one-day wickets. Vaas also has 3085 Test runs at 24.48, including a century.

His captain Kumar Sangakkara led the tributes, saying that Vaas' achievements were the benchmark quick bowlers in his country will strive for. "Vaas is a true champion and probably the only Sri Lankan fast bowler who can be called a true legend of the game," he said. "No matter who replaces Vaasy in the bowling attack they will take years and years to reach the standards he has set - and maybe they never will."

Vaas last represented Sri Lanka in February in the abruptly terminated Test series in Pakistan. On July 4 this year Ashantha de Mel, Sri Lanka's chief selector, had been quoted in the press saying that Vaas had retired from Test cricket. However, Vaas, speaking to Cricinfo, denied any such claims.

Vaas, 35, was axed from the Sri Lanka Twenty20 side last October, missing the four-nation tournament in Canada. He kept his place in the Test side and featured in the Karachi match earlier this year but was subsequently dropped for the aborted Lahore Test after he went wicketless in 31 overs.