COLOMBO (AFP): Pakistan will look to use their newfound batting aggression to double up against Sri Lanka in the second Test starting Monday, after securing their first long-format victory for a year.
The visitors arrived in Sri Lanka without a Test win to their name in 12 months but despite a wobbly final-innings chase a four-wicket victory in Galle means they need only a draw in Colombo to win the two-match series.
A determined effort to raise their run rate with a more positive approach paid dividends, scoring at more than 4.5 per over for much of their first innings and putting the Sri Lankan bowlers under pressure.
It is an approach that has echoes of England’s new “Bazball” style.
The first hundred of Saud Shakeel’s double century came off just 129 balls, his 177-run partnership with Agha Salman laying the foundation for Pakistan’s 149-run first innings lead.
After the last Test cycle, Pakistan’s management was “very firm” that one of the reasons they were not winning matches was that “we weren’t scoring at such a high rate as the opposition”, Shan Masood said.
There had been a “concentrated effort” at pre-tour training camps in Lahore and Karachi, he added.
“The emphasis was on scoring runs just to sort of put the opposition under pressure,” said Masood, who scored 39 off 30 balls in the first innings in Galle.
“That has put us back in the game.”
Pakistan may want to include another seamer as the Singhalese Sports Club track is known to provide bounce and movement, but will have to consider whether to make changes to a winning side.
– Dropped catches –
Sri Lanka will have to improve if they are to win the match and draw the series.
Other than Dhananjaya de Silva — who made 122 and 82 — their batsmen failed to deliver in Galle, many of them getting into the 20s and 30s but not building on their starts.
The hosts will be keen to have Asitha Fernando back in the side ahead of Kasun Rajitha, who took 1-77 in 19 first-innings overs and was not called on in Pakistan’s second innings.
Fernando had to sit out the first Test, recovering from dengue fever.
Sri Lanka’s catching was poor — Shakeel was dropped on 93 and 139 — and they admitted wasting several of their reviews.
Dimuth Karunaratne acknowledged invoking DRS was his call as captain but said he made his decisions “based on the feedback from the bowler and wicket-keeper”.
“The misjudging of reviews is a loss for the team and can be crucial during a tight game,” he said.
“We will have to focus on making the right use of reviews and what could be done differently.”
Sri Lanka have won 20 of the 43 Tests played at SSC and lost only nine, including the most recent Test it hosted, against England five years ago.
Pakistan have played there on six occasions and have a one win, one loss record with the rest drawn.