Galle – Sri Lanka will be looking to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath to turn their fortunes around in Test cricket when the first Test against Pakistan starts on Friday.
Since the retirement of the peerless Muttiah Muralitharan two years ago, Sri Lanka's Test record has been dismal with four lost series and two drawn.
“Rangana is the most senior bowler who has been burdened with the workload. His bowling is fantastic,” said Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene.
Galle has become a favourite venue for the orthodox left-armer. In six Tests he has taken 30 wickets at an average of 23.50, including a match-winning career best 12 for 171 against Andrew Strauss's England team last March.
“It's an important series for both teams and Rangana (Herath) and Saeed (Pakistan off-spinner Ajmal) will play a big role in all three test matches,” said Jayawardene.
“It all depends on how the others react and how they take responsibility. This is going to be a very exciting series.”
Pakistan's stand-in captain Mohammad Hafeez said he was confident his team would continue their good recent form during which they have won four series, including a 3-0 whitewash of world number one side England, and drawn six despite playing all their matches abroad.
“In the last 1-1/2 years this team has done a great job,” said Hafeez who is captaining his country in a Test for the first time. “Our performances were great so I don't think there's anything special I have to do for the team.
“Everybody plays his role very well as far as test cricket is concerned. We really had a good series against England so that confidence will definitely help us.”
Hafeez will be leading Pakistan in a Test for the first time after captain Mizbah-ul-Haq was forced to miss the first Test after he was handed a one-match ban for a slow over rate in the fifth one-day match on Monday.
“Obviously we'll miss Misbah in the team because he is a calm and stable personality,” said Hafeez.”But still we'll have to move forward. I am sure the team will do well.”
Hafeez said the team had not decided who will replace Misbah but named newcomers Afaq Raheem and Mohammad Yusuf as possible candidates.
“Mohammad Yusuf is a very fine middle-order batsman who earned his place scoring 1 000 runs in four consecutive seasons in first-class cricket,” said Hafeez.
“Afaq Raheem is one of the best openers in Pakistan who is doing well at first class level. Both have done a great job and earned their place on the tour.”
The second Test is scheduled for June 30 in Colombo and the third for July 8 in Pallakele. – Reuters