Tue. May 30th, 2023

Pakistan will be marking return to Test cricket after more than three months when they take on hosts Sri Lanka at Galle International Cricket Stadium tomorrow in the first of the two Tests. Though Pakistan returned with a series win 2-1 the last time they toured the island nation in 2015, Sri Lanka, following their comeback win against Australia at the very same venue, promised to pose a tough challenge to the visitors. Pakistan captain Babar Azam, however, feels Pakistan are well prepared for the challenge.

The two matches are of significance for both sides as they form part of the ICC World Test Championship. Sri Lanka, following their series-leveling win earlier in the week, is sitting third on the nine-team table with 54.17 win percentage points, while Pakistan, with 52.38, is just a rung below.

Babar is the top run-getter for Pakistan in the current ICC World Test Championship cycle with 682 at an average of 62. He has made a century – that second innings 196 in that epic draw against Australia in Karachi – and five half-centuries. The bowling charts are dominated by tall pacer Shaheen Afridi who has 37 scalps – including two five-fers – at 18.02 runs per dismissal.

Pakistan arrived in Colombo on 6 July. They had the final phase of their preparations in the city where they also played a warm-up match against Sri Lanka Cricket XI to help them acclimatize to the conditions.

“Our preparations have been very good and we are ready for the Test series,” Babar said while speaking to PCB Digital ahead of a practice session on the eve of the Test series. “The warm-up match helped us in getting used to the Sri Lankan conditions, and our camps in Rawalpindi and Lahore also played a role in preparing us for the series. We have worked hard and put in the effort.”

Galle’s is considered one of the most iconic cricket stadiums around the world. At its one end, towers the Galle Dutch Fort and the close proximity of the Indian Ocean ensured cool sea breeze and scenic view. While the conditions here have generally favoured the spin bowlers, a tinge of grass, according to Babar, will also provide assistance to the pacers.

Pakistan, recently, has shown strength in all facets with their batters, bowlers – spinners or pacers – and fielders stepping up on crucial moments. The Pakistan captain says this has made his life easy. “I am incredibly proud of this team as a captain. Every player on this site is taking responsibility and trying to finish the game for Pakistan. Whether it is our bowlers or batters, they make sure that they put in all of their efforts and that makes my life easy. We will give our best in this series.”

Speaking about the side’s time in Sri Lanka so far, Babar said: “So far our experience in this country has been really good. We have gotten a lot of love from the people here. People here love and enjoy cricket and they come to the grounds to watch their heroes.

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