Sri Lanka optimistic Rangana Herath holds key to series despite poor Galle Test against Pakistan

Home team, trailing 1-0 in three-match series, hope slow left-armer bounces back in the second Test at Colombo.

Rangana Herath, right, usually among the wickets against Pakistan, was ineffective during the Galle Test. Ishara Kodikara / AFP
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COLOMBO // A confident Pakistan will aim to clinch a first Test series win in Sri Lanka for nine years when the second match starts at the P Sara Oval on Thursday.

Misbah-ul-Haq’s tourists are riding high after a 10-wicket triumph in the opening Test in Galle on Sunday despite the first four sessions of the match being washed out.

Pakistan have lost their past three series in Sri Lanka following a 1-0 success in 2006, but Misbah’s men could not have asked for a better venue to seal the series than the historic Oval ground where Sri Lanka played their first Test match, against England, in 1982.

The Oval’s pitch has produced a winner in eight successive Tests since 2005. Sri Lanka have lost their past three matches at the ground, losing to India in 2010 and being beaten by England and New Zealand in 2012.

Pakistan, who lost by seven wickets when they played at the Oval in 2009, will bank on their impressive first Test effort to deal another blow to the hosts.

The key to Pakistan’s first Test win lay in their batsmen dominating Sri Lanka’s spin spearhead Rangana Herath, a constant thorn for the tourists.

When the two sides last met in Sri Lanka in 2014, the seasoned left-arm spinner grabbed 23 Pakistani wickets in two Tests to engineer a 2-0 win for the hosts.

Misbah said before this series that it was important to tackle Herath if Pakistan were to win matches and the batsmen responded by conceding just one wicket to the spinner in Galle.

“Playing Herath confidently was the key for us,” Misbah said. “It’s a good sign for us because he is a very good bowler and could have done a lot more.

“We need to keep this going to win the series because he is a tough competitor capable of doing anything.”

Pakistan’s spinners claimed 13 wickets between them in Galle, compared to five for Sri Lanka’s, and the home captain Angelo Mathews conceded that cost his team dearly.

“I admit that our spinners were not as effective as their spinners, even though the pitch was turning from day one,” Mathews said. “Hopefully, Rangana will bounce back quickly.”

Pakistan may play all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez as a batsman after his bowling action was reported by umpires for a second time in seven months.

Hafeez will be tested in two weeks, but regulations allow him to bowl until the results are declared. If his action is found illegal after testing, he will not be allowed to bowl for a year.

The third and final Test starts in Pallekele on July 3.

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