Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: First Test Squads, Preview, and Predictions

The two subcontinental nations prepare to play each other across all three formats, starting with two Tests. Which of the two teams will come out on top?


Overview 

Sri Lanka and Pakistan embark on a series spanning all three formats, starting with two Tests, followed by 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is. The series will be held in the UAE. 

Both teams are missing key players. Pakistan have lost Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq after both retired, forcing the team into a transitional phase in which many have struggled. Sri Lanka will be without former captain Angelo Mathews where he sustained an ankle injury in training.

The teams have seen contrasting fortunes in the recent past. Pakistan played and won the series against the World XI 2-1 along with the Champions Trophy, whereas Sri Lanka were decimated by India at home. However, with Pakistan playing many uncapped players, and Sri Lanka struggling to win games, the two teams are on a relatively equal footing, making for a competitive series.

Squads

Pakistan

Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Usman Salahuddin, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Abbas, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Wahab Riaz

Sri Lanka

Dinesh Chandimal(c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage

Where The Teams Stand 

Pakistan

The UAE has been an adopted home for Pakistan after security issues in their homeland, forcing them to move abroad. They have considerable experience playing in the Emirates, and it is equivalent to playing at home. For them, this a series to test their youngsters according to Inzamam Ul-Haq, the Chief of the selection panel, and they have included five uncapped players in their squad.

With the retirement of two of Pakistan’s modern era greatest, their batting looks slightly uncertain. Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, and Sarfraz Ahmed will all be expected to fill the void left by Khan and ul-Haq. The captain, Ahmed, will be a key unifier in the middle order, while Ali at number three will be another vital cog in the batting lineup, averaging 45+ in Test cricket.

Pakistan has a great bowling lineup despite all the newcomers. Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, and Yasir Shah make a formidable attack which will surely trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen. Shah was the Man of the Series the last time Pakistan played Test cricket back in March 2017 against West Indies, but his fitness has been a concern. Thankfully, he is back fit and ready for selection. Mohammad Abbas was also impressive in the Test series against West Indies, taking 15 wickets in 3 Tests. He will be a player to watch out for in the coming series. 

Sri Lanka

The visitors have a talented batting lineup to play with. Karunaratne, Chandimal, and Mendis are all batsmen that possess proven quality, whereas Dickwella and Silva possess an abundance of raw talent waiting to be actualised. Thirimanne is another batsman who performed well against India in the ODI series, but it remains to be seen if he can carry his form over to the longest format. 

Sri Lanka have some uncapped players of their own, having included Roshen Silva and Sadeera Samarawickrama for the series. The latter is a wicketkeeper-batsman, the third in the squad, while the former is a middle-order batsman. Lahiru Gamage is also another who has not played Test cricket so far. He is a pace bowler who has only featured in ODI’s. All three are unlikely to play in the first Test, but Sri Lanka have some decent options at their disposal.

The visitors have a nice balance between pace and spin. Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, and Dilruwan Perera are quality slow options, whereas Fernando, Pradeep, Lakmal form the pace department. Herath is a legend of Sri Lankan cricket, and their success with the ball will largely hinge on his own performance. It is a little surprising that the board excluded Malinda Pushpakumara after his decent spells against India in the Test series, but they have enough options in their squad. 

Prediction

Pakistan has a strong bowling attack, but a questionable batting lineup. It is precisely the opposite for Sri Lanka, so this should be an interesting contest. Still, the prediction is that Pakistan win.

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