"Galle-like" wicket leaves Test rivals guessing
COLOMBO: A seaming wicket and steaming hot conditions have forced Pakistan and Sri Lanka to delay naming their teams for the crucial second Test starting on Sunday.
The hard, even-paced track at the P. Sara Oval, livened up by the ongoing monsoon rains, was described by curator Aniruddha Polonowita as similar to the one at Galle where the first Test ended inside four days.
"Its a Galle-like wicket that will help the seamers at the start and then settle down in favour of the batsmen," Polonowita told reporters.
"It will be best for batting on the second and third day, and there could be a bit of help for the spinners towards the end."
Sri Lanka won the first Test by 50 runs after a dramatic fourth morning when Pakistan, needing 97 runs to reach the target of 168, lost their last eight wickets for 46 runs to be bowled out for 117.
Another win for a decisive 2-0 lead in the three-match series will hand Sri Lanka their first ever Test series success at home against Pakistan.
Both Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara and Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said a further inspection of the wicket and the prevailing weather -- rain has been forecast during the match -- was needed before the teams were finalised.
"We have a couple of options, like playing an extra fast bowler or not, but we will have a look at the deck on Sunday morning and decide," said Sangakkara.
"You always choose the team based on how the wicket will play. It looks a good one which should help both the batsmen and bowlers."
Alam said the oppressively hot and humid weather would force fast bowlers to bowl in short bursts, meaning the combination had to be carefully finalised for the must-win game for Pakistan.
"It is premature to say what our line-up will be," said Alam. "All I will say is these are trying conditions. It is definitely hotter here than Galle."
Sangakkara said the victory in the first Test had given his team a psychological advantage going into the match, but warned team-mates against taking another win for granted.
"When you win one, you always have that edge for the next game, but it's a new Test and a new start," he said. "What happened a week ago will really not matter when the first ball is bowled."
Sangakkara wanted an improved batting performance by his team after totals of 292 and 217 in the Galle Test.
"It is vital to have a big first innings score and very important that all 11 players contribute towards that."
Alam hoped Pakistan's batsmen had learnt from the mistakes they made in Galle, but was confident the series would not be conceded easily.
"It hurt to lose a game we dominated on the first three days and then gave it away in one session," the Pakistan coach said. "It was bad batting and we have to get it right this time.
"I have enough confidence that this group has the ability to fight back. Pakistan is known to come back when the chips are down. It all boils down to how quickly the boys have learnt from their mistakes."