Sri Lanka searching for first series win in post Muralitharan era


by Rex Clementine

Kumar Sangakkara’s record against Pakistan is Bradmansque. The prolific left-hander has an average touching 80 against them while former great Aravinda de Silva’s eight of the 20 Test hundreds were against Pakistan and were made when the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were at their peak.

The national cricket team’s woes since the retirement of ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan are many. Muralitharan’s last campaign for Sri Lanka was last year’s World Cup tournament and since that they went through six series (four bi-lateral series and two tournaments) without a win while in Test cricket the barren period extends even further.

Since beating a weak New Zealand side in 2009, Sri Lanka have been not able to win a Test Match with the barren period extending over eight series. Of those eight series five have ended in defeats while three have been drawn. Since defeating New Zealand in August 2009, Sri Lanka have won only three of their 23 Tests! Hence, they have been pushed to the number six slot of ICC rankings for Test teams.

However, a new captain and the recent win in the ODI series has given Sri Lanka new optimism. "Winning the ODI series has given us a big psychological advantage and with what they (Pakistan) have achieved in the last six months it makes a big difference," Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene told journalists.

Despite optimism, questions will be asked whether the Sri Lankans have the nucleus to take 20 wickets. Pakistan’s improvement in Test cricket has been steady and in their last Test series that ended in February in the UAE, they whitewashed England, worlds’number one ranked team.

Of all Test playing nations, Sri Lanka have played most number of Tests against Pakistan totaling 40. Pakistan have an impressive head to head record having won 16 of those 40 Tests compared to Sri Lanka’s nine wins.

Of the 16 series between the countries, nine have been won by Pakistan while Sri Lanka have won three. Four series have ended in draws.

The last series between the countries was won by Pakistan while Pakistan’s last tour of Sri Lanka resulted in a win for the hosts. In fact it was the first time Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in a home Test series. By then they had beaten Pakistan in Pakistan in three series.

This series gets underway with the first Test in Galle that starts on Friday. The teams will return to Colombo where SSC will host the second Test. The third and final Test will be played at Pallekele.

Former captain Kumar Sangakkara has an excellent record against Pakistan and he is the highest run scorer in Tests between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Sangakkara is 170 runs short of the 2000 run mark and has a Bradmansque average of 79:56 in 13 Tests against them. Of his 25 Test hundreds seven have been against Pakistan and he has gone onto convert two of those hundreds into double hundreds.

Muralithran’s 80 wickets is the highest in Tests between the countries while Wasim Akram has 63 scalps to his name closely followed by Waqar Younis, who has 56 wickets.

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