Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal dons his helmet during training at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. Ishant S Kodikara / AFP
Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal dons his helmet during training at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. Ishant S Kodikara / AFP

Wicket-shy Ajmal vows to recover form in third Test



SHARJAH // Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal promised on Tuesday to get back among the wickets after his below-par performances in the two Tests against Sri Lanka, saying he had never had such a bad response from the pitches.

Ajmal took just five wickets in the two Tests, much below his five-wicket per match ratio, having taken 164 wickets in 32 Tests.

The performance of the 36-year-old spinner, regarded as Pakistan’s main weapon, is a big reason Pakistan are 1-0 down with the final Test starting in Sharjah on Thursday.

“I don’t feel that if the performance is not good in the last two matches I should be disappointed,” Ajmal said.

“I am doing the hard work and will bounce back. The ball isn’t spinning and they are playing cautiously. If I had got some spin, the result would have been different.

“I have been playing in Dubai for the last six years, but haven’t seen such a bad response as here,” said Ajmal, who took 18 wickets to help Pakistan win 1-0 in the previous three-match series against Sri Lanka in 2011.

Ajmal went wicketless in his 49 overs in the second innings of the first Test in Abu Dhabi, where Sri Lanka came away with a draw after conceding a 179-run lead.

He took three wickets in the two innings of the Dubai Test, which Sri Lanka won by nine wickets. “I did a lot of hard work but couldn’t get a good result. But I have never been disappointed with cricket and will try to perform good in this [coming] match and help the team to win it,” Ajmal said.

Ajmal denied he was feeling overworked, having played in all three formats since his international debut in 2008.

“We don’t play that much Test cricket, so there’s no workload on me,” he said. “No, there’s no pressure. It’s cricket and there are ups and downs. They [the Sri Lankan batsmen] are relaxed while facing me and that’s why they are playing me well.”

Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore, whose two-year contract ends next month, also agreed Ajmal had struggled to get any response from the pitches and said he should not be judged solely on the basis of two bad performances.

“Ajmal will always need to be managed properly, as all match-winning bowlers do. Both Ajmal and [Sri Lankan spinner] Rangana Herath found the pitches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai unresponsive,” Whatmore said.

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