Can Sri Lanka find their winning Mojo at home?

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Sri Lanka will look to put up an improved performance, especially with the ball, when they take on Pakistan in the second Test today (24) at Galle International cricket stadium.

Hosts are coming into the match after a 4-wicket loss in the first Test and have made few changes to the squad, with opening batter Pathum Nissanka and right arm off spinner Lakshitha Manasinghe included in the squad.

Sri Lanka’s bowling attack will look considerably different, although that may have been the case anyway after the spinners were unable to keep the Pakistan batters under control.

With Maheesh Theekshana out and Ramesh Mendis’ poor performance, the selectors will be forced to change the playing XI, with debutants Lakshitha Manasinghe and Dunith Welallage likely to make their debut.

Apart from the bowling, they also need their senior batters to step forward. There is no lack of experience in the top order, but it was collectively a very poor performance in the opening Test.

If not for Dinesh Chandimal’s brilliance with the bat in the second innings, and Prabhat Jayasuriya’s superb bowling, Sri Lanka could have suffered a hammering in the first Test. The batters failed to deliver the goods in both innings. There was no support for Chandimal in the second innings and the Lankans could not go for the kill.

In bowling also, the Lankans could not pick regular wickets, and got Jayasuriya to do the bulk of the work. The Lankans won’t have Mahesh Theekshana this time, as he was ruled out due to a finger injury. A complete performance is what the hosts would be aiming to achieve in the 2nd Test.

 Meanwhile, skipper Dimuth Karunarathe, who didn’t have a good outing, will be looking to find his mojo along with Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews and the in-form Dinesh Chandimal to provide the bulk of the batting support.

On the other hand, Pakistan will take a lot of confidence into the 2nd Test after Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam got centuries, and will hope the experienced Azhar Ali comes back to form to play a long innings. They will also hope to use Yasir Shah as their trump card to bamboozle the SL batters.

 Pakistan proved their worth in testing conditions, with the world class batting of Babar Azam complemented superbly by Shafique’s innings. However, Pakistan will be without their talismanic pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi as he is ruled out due to a knee injury.

Nonetheless, Pakistan have a solid backup in the pace department as they have Faheem Ashraf. Barring Afridi, the Azam-led side ticked the majority of the boxes. Shafique and Azam batted well, spin twins Yasir Shah and Mohammad Nawaz bowled well, and overall, they ensured Sri Lanka didn’t run away with the game. The visitors have momentum and will look to cash in on that.

With this win Pakistan climbed up to third spot on the World Test Championship table, while Sri Lanka slipped to sixth spot.

A win in second test will see Pakistan make further ground on South Africa and Australia at the top of the standings, while a loss will see Babar’s side drop back to fifth.

Conversely, Sri Lanka can regain third place in the standings if they can recover quickly, fight back and level the series by winning the second Test.

Possible Playing XI’s:

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Prabath Jayasuriya, Lakshitha Manasinghe

Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Agha Salman, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Naseem Shah

By Mustaq Sydeen