All eyes on Rawalpindi for historic return of Test cricket to Pakistan

10 December 2019 03:07 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka's return to Pakistan, 10 years after an attack on their team bus, carries significance beyond the results of the two-Test series.

Another 120 points in the ICC Test Championship are on offer for Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These are points Pakistan can urgently use, following Australia's series sweep over them in November-December. Sri Lanka ended up sharing points during the home series against New Zealand. 

But, in the run-up to the series, the excitement has been less about the on-field contest and more about the larger significance of Test cricket returning to Pakistan. The visitors arrived to a warm welcome and high security in Pakistan, and have the gratitude of fans for making the trip. A near full-strength squad agreed to feature in the series. Bandula Warnapura and Javed Miandad, who captained Sri Lanka and Pakistan in their first-ever Test, have been invited as special guests. 

Pakistan have brought back Fawad Alam, the top-order batsman who has been in fine domestic form, after a gap of 10 years from the national side. Usman Shinwari also has been included, with Iftikhar Ahmed and Musa Khan left out from the side that suffered two innings defeats in Australia.

The visitors will be without Suranga Lakmal, who has contracted dengue and will miss the series. He has been replaced by Asitha Fernando.

The Tests will also mark the return of Mickey Arthur, Pakistan's coach until a few months ago – this time in his new role as Sri Lanka coach, following his appointment earlier this month.

Sri Lanka won the last Test series between the teams, handing Pakistan a rare defeat in their adopted home of UAE. In the first Test, Pakistan couldn't chase down a target of 136 runs, while in the second, a first-innings 196 from Dimuth Karunaratne set up a 68-run win for Sri Lanka despite them being bowled out for 96 in the second innings and Asad Shafiq making a century in the hosts' reply. 

The last meeting between the sides was the T20Is in Pakistan, where a young Sri Lankan side surprised the No.1 side in the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings, taking the series 3-0.

Azhar Ali, Pakistan captain: "It is important for us to play well in this series. We have a fresh batting line up ... We have to figure out how to win Tests in Pakistan."

Mickey Arthur, Sri Lanka coach: "The key will be precision, accuracy and then building pressure with our bowlers. That is hopefully going to be the winning recipe for us. Our batsman cashing into that first innings is of utmost importance."

Conditions

There is some rain expected on days two, three and four of the Test. The first day will be partially cloudy, with highs reaching 26°C. The pitch in Rawalpindi is generally good for batting.

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