PALLEKELE (Sri Lanka), July 7: Pakistan and Sri Lanka begin the third and final Test of the Mobilink Jazz Cup series here on Sunday seeking an exciting finale on what appears to be a result-oriented wicket.
Both sides were relieved that the greenish pitch looked different from the lifeless track prepared for the rain-hit second Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Ground in Colombo, which ended in a tame draw.
“That was a boring Test — flat wicket and lots of rain — but this one will be different,” Sri Lanka's vice-captain Angelo Mathews told reporters at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Saturday. “There will be bounce and movement at the start and the wicket will take spin as the game goes on. Hopefully we will get a result if the rains stay away.”
Sri Lanka, who won the first Test by 209 runs in Galle, are hoping to record their first series win in three years since defeating New Zealand 2-0 at home in 2009.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene insisted the hosts will go all out to win the final Test even though a draw would be enough to seal the series.
“We need to go with the intention of winning the Test,” Jayawardene wrote on the Cricinfo website. “Going in with a negative mindset and playing for a draw will never work.
“Pakistan are a quality outfit, and if we don't play to win, then we cannot take up the challenge posed by them. I will tell my guys to play hard cricket and be positive.
“It will definitely be a sporting pitch and livelier than the one in the previous Test, but a lot will depend on the weather.”
Light rain has been forecast for next week, but the groundstaff were confident the weather would not interfere with the cricket.
The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, built in 2009 on the outskirts of the hill town of Kandy, has hosted two drawn Tests so far, both of which were interrupted by bad weather.
Pakistan vice-captain Mohammad Hafeez, who scored 196 in the second Test, hoped dry weather would enable the tourists to seek a series-levelling win.
“No one wants another rain-affected game,” said Hafeez as rain delayed Pakistan's training session on Saturday.
“We can't win the series, but we will return home happy if we can win this match and draw the series.
“The morale of the team is high after Colombo and we are ready for the challenge ahead.”
The batting flourished during the Colombo Test with Azhar Ali joining Hafeez as the team's other century-maker in a first innings total of 551-6 declared after being sent in to bat.
Pakistan then dismissed the hosts for 391, grabbing the last five wickets for 21 runs, after centuries from Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan had lifted Sri Lanka to a comfortable 236-1.
Young left-arm seamer Junaid Khan claimed a five-wicket haul on a pitch that offered him no help and was deservedly named the Man-of-the-Match in the batsmen-dominated Test.
Pakistan had enjoyed an impressive run before the current series, winning seven of their last nine Tests, including a brilliant 3-0 whitewash of top-ranked England earlier this year.
But their hopes of clinching a 1-1 scoreline rest on how quickly they can dismiss Sangakkara, who scored an unbeaten 199 in the first Test and 192 in the second.
Teams (from): SRI LANKA: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Dilhara Fernando.
PAKISTAN: Mohammad Hafeez, Taufiq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Ayub Dogar, Faisal Iqbal, Junaid Khan, Afaq Raheem, Aizaz Cheema.
Umpires: Steve Davis and Simon Taufel (both Australia).
TV umpire: Ranmore Martinesz (Sri Lanka).
Match referee: David Boon (Australia).—AFP