Pakistan vs Sri Lanka 3rd Test in Sharjah: Mathews bracing for Pakistan backlash
Sri Lanka are bracing for a backlash from Pakistan who are smarting from their nine-wicket defeat in the second Test at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.
Pakistan need to win the third and final Test starting in Sharjah from Thursday to avoid losing their first-ever series in the UAE.
Sri Lanka enjoy a 1-0 lead in the three-match series after the first Test ended in a draw in Abu Dhabi.
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore on Monday said that losing the toss was key to his team's defeat to Sri Lanka in the second Test in Dubai as a low first innings score proved to be decisive.
Whatmore, who ends his two-year tenure with Pakistan next month, hoped his team will be able to give him a winning send off.
"Conditions in Sharjah are likely to be different and will probably necessitate a change to the eleven," he said of his selection options.
Pakistan are sweating on the fitness of paceman Bilawal Bhatti who injured his hamstring in Dubai. He is likely to be replaced by Mohammad Talha, while a couple of changes are also expected in the top-order batting which failed in Dubai.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews contended that Pakistan remained a dangerous team.
"The Pakistan team is an very good one and against this team you have to play positive cricket because if you give them even a little opportunity they will trample all over us. We played well throughout and won the difficult moments," said Mathews.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq expressed his disappointment at not getting turning pitches to play up to his team's strength in Dubai.
"Obviously, we are not getting support as per our strength (of spinners) and that is a worry for us," said a visibly upset Pakistan captain, whose team also lost to South Africa at the same pitch three months ago.
"Obviously groundsmen are preparing pitches but as far as satisfaction, it's not there because we have not given instructions of such flat tracks.
"Maybe the groundsmen want to make (our) kind of pitch but they are not able to do that. It is surprising that there was no break here on the pitch, not even on the fifth day and it's surprising."
Pakistan's defeat was largely due to the ineffectivenesss of their main weapon Saeed Ajmal, with the off-spinner having bagged only five wickets to show in the two Tests.
Ajmal went wicketless in his 49 overs in the second innings of the first Test.
Pakistan lost a crucial toss and were bowled out for a paltry 165 in their first innings on a pitch that helped seamers.
Sri Lanka gained a big 223-run lead with experienced batsman Mahela Jayawardene notching 129. Pakistan fought hard to score 359 in their second innings but Sri Lanka knocked off the meager 137-run target for the loss of one wicket for their biggest win over Pakistan in 45 Tests.
"Once we lost the crucial toss, as there was lot of moisture on the pitch, we could not really get back in the Test match," admitted Misbah, who scored 97 in the second innings. Misbah blamed faltering batsmen.
"I think the batsmen should have applied themselves more. You could see that there was some seam but still we played some indisciplind shots and that put us in trouble," said Misbah.
Mathews acknowledged that the Dubai pitch was helpful for batsmen.
"Apart from the first day, this was a regular Dubai wicket. The spinners weren't that successful on this wicket, it became a bit slow, but still good for the batsmen, as usual," said Mathews, who hit 157 not out to draw the first Test.
Mathews said the win was pleasing.
"That's what cricket is about. You need to keep fighting. I thought we did exactly that in the first Test. This is a wonderful victory with the help of the whole team," said Mathews after recording his first win as Test captain overseas.
Mathews won the toss and decided to bowl first, getting Pakistan out for a paltry 165.
Sri Lanka, led by Mahela Jayawardene's 129, posted 338 to gain a big 223-run lead. Pakistan fared better in the second innings to score 359 but it only provided a meager 137-run target for their opponents.
Sri Lankan achieved that for the loss of only one wicket to post their biggest-ever win over Pakistan in 45 Tests between the two nations.
Whatmore, a former Australian batsman who coached Sri Lanka to the World Cup title in 1996, said losing the toss was unfortunate.
"It was unfortunate to lose the toss as the wicket was helpful to the pace bowlers," he said.
"The wicket had been under the covers for nearly 24 hours previously (because of rain) which meant the batsmen were in for a difficult period on day one. Our first innings total was always going to prove difficult to defend," said Whatmore.
Whatmore, who played seven Tests and one one-day international for Australia, defended not playing a second spinner in the Dubai Test.
"We always select the best possible eleven in relation to the pitch conditions. Unfortunately we could not play a second spinner and went in with three fast bowlers," he said.
When asked if he agreed with skipper Misbah-ul Haq that Pakistan did not get the pitches they wanted in the series, Whatmore replied: "The short answer is yes."
Whatmore said off-spinner Ajmal was unable to get a response from the pitches.
"Both Ajmal and Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath found bowling in Abu Dhabi and Dubai unresponsive," said Whatmore.
Ajmal, who helped Pakistan to a 1-0 win over Sri Lanka in the last three-match series in the UAE in 2011 with 18 wickets, has so far managed just five in two Tests.
Whatmore agreed Ajmal should be managed carefully.
"Ajmal will always need to be managed properly, as all match winning bowlers do. It would be incorrect to suggest batsmen are reading Ajmal," said Whatmore of the spinner who plays all three formats for Pakistan and is regarded as their main weapon.
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