Pakistan will be looking to maintain its impeccable recent record in the United Arab Emirates when it meets Sri Lanka in the first of the three Tests from Tuesday.
Pakistan has lost only one Test match out of 10 in the UAE since its home games were shifted to the gulf country due to security reasons in March 2009 when South Africa beat them in October to level the series 1-1.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq tuned up for the longer format with a 3-2 win in the one-day series against Sri Lanka, which will be playing a Test match after a nine-month break.
Misbah believes he has a bowling attack to challenge the opposition, which will be strengthened with the return of left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and Mahela Jayawardene.
“They are a top (Test) side and competitive one to play with, so you need to be at your best to do well against them”, Misbah said.
Pakistan has the lethal spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman, who played a major role in Pakistan’s 3-0 rout of then No. 1 England in the Test series in UAE last year.
Sri Lanka also lost the Test series 1-0 here in 2011 despite Kumar Sangakkara scoring 516 runs.
Winning send off
Pakistan will be looking to give a winning send off to coach Dav Whatmore, who will be leaving after the Test series against Sri Lanka.
Pakistan has not won a Test series under Whatmore since he was appointed coach in March 2012.
The team lost the Test series in Sri Lanka last year before losing 3-0 to South Africa earlier this year and drawing 1-1 in October.
Pakistan has recalled fast-bowler Umar Gul but Misbah was not sure whether the paceman has regained enough fitness from his knee surgery after nine months of lay off to last for five days.
“I can’t say much on this, but we are looking closely how it goes”, Misbah said about Gul’s fitness.
But Pakistan has no such worries in their batting line-up with the return of Test specialists Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews was wary of his team’s lack of Test matches since it last played against Bangladesh in March.
“We’ve played some four-day cricket before we left to Dubai, and we had some match-practice there, but it’s not as good as playing a Test match”, he said.
Mathews said he expects the pitch in Abu Dhabi to have more pace and help for spinners than Dubai and Sharjah, which hosts the remaining two Testmatches of the series.