Pakistan looks to spin in do-or-die test match

RIZWAN ALI
Last updated 08:08 16/01/2014

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Captain Misbah-ul-Haq may give a second spinner a chance on a flat Sharjah pitch against Sri Lanka in the third test starting today as Pakistan searches for the right combination to level the series.

''You get spin on the pitches here as far as test cricket goes,'' Misbah, who has a say on the playing XI, said on Wednesday.

''It's a do-or-die situation for us and we have to level the series, there is no other option.''

Pakistan and Misbah also thought the second-test pitch in Dubai last week would take spin, but went with only Saeed Ajmal and the pitch hardly broke.

Sri Lanka registered its biggest ever victory in tests against Pakistan last week in winning by nine wickets to take a 1-0 lead.

In the five previous tests at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Pakistan defeated West Indies twice in 2002, lost to Australia by innings margins in the same year, and drew with Sri Lanka in 2011.

''Out of five matches, four have produced results so you can't say that the pitch doesn't produce results,'' Misbah said.

Bringing in left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman also could be expedient, as fast bowler Bilawal Bhatti has been nursing hamstring injury since bowling in the first innings of the second test.

Misbah is unlikely to tinker with his top order batsmen despite Ahmed Shehzad, Khurram Manzoor and Mohammad Hafeez struggling against the Sri Lanka seamers - especially with the new ball. The three have each scored a half century in the series, and have the backing of their skipper.

''Two innings can go bad for anyone,'' Misbah said.

''The new ball is always difficult... so we are not worried about that very much.''

But Pakistan must surely be worried that except for Junaid Khan, who has taken 11 wickets in two tests, no other bowler has assisted the left-arm paceman.

Rahat Ali has bowled more than 100 overs for only two wickets, while Ajmal's tally is just five.

But Misbah feels no pressure, and hoped his seamers would follow the Sri Lanka seamers - Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal - by bowling in the right areas.

''If we feel worried and panic, then it will not help,'' Misbah said.

''We have worked on the areas where we struggled and will try to improve them.''

While Pakistan has had a lot of homework after the heavy defeat on Sunday, Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews just wanted his teammates not to be complacent and look to win again.

Mathews has led from the front with his match-saving career-best unbeaten 157 in the first test and Mahela Jayawardene notched his 32nd test century with three stitches in his left hand to set the stage for the big victory in the second.

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All three seamers have bowled well within their limits to trouble Pakistan batsmen with their swing.

''We can't be complacent because they are a very good unit and they can come back and come back hard,'' Mathews said.

''We want to win this game because we certainly don't want to go for a draw because it sends a negative message to the whole team, so we want to win it and win the series 2-0.''

Mathews said Pakistan's confusion over the state of the pitches in the United Arab Emirates has helped Sri Lanka as his seamers have taken advantage.

''Having confusion, it's always good for us,'' Mathews said.

''There was a lot of help for the seamers (in Dubai) and our seamers bowled better than their seamers, so we got more wickets than them.''

While the batsmen have successfully managed to negate the spin threat of Ajmal, Mathews anticipated a bit of turn in Sharjah and hinted that offspinner Sachithra Senanayake, who made a wicketless debut in the first test, might get another chance to partner Rangana Herath.

- AP

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