Commentary team: Sanath Jayasuria, Rameez Raja, Waqar Younis, Russel Arnold, Tony Greig were just some of the people involved. It was interesting to hear Waqar back in the commentary box just exactly 1 month after completing his tenure as coach. It was fascinating to hear his insightful views as he has been around the camp. It’s nice to see him going strong and still being involved in the game and more specifically with his country. His passion and enthusiasm for Pakistan Cricket never runs out. I look forward to hearing more from him throughout the course of the series with his knowledge and experiences more than the comical grammatical errors in tone of voice. Tony Greig of course is from channel 9 in Australia and a familiar voice to many.
Pitch and Conditions: As always in the UAE the weather is humid and it becomes a test of stamina as much as it is to do with skill. The conception was the pitch would be a batting paradise once more in the Middle East dessert.
Toss: Misbah won the toss and elected to insert the Sri Lankans into bat due to the moisture in the wicket. It was a brave and courageous decision on the UAE wickets which are renowned to be placid. The man with the best cricketing intellect and decision making credentials in the country certainly got his assessment spot on and thoroughly justified his decision with the performance and backing from his bowlers who responded extremely well against an experienced Sri Lankan middle order. Without a doubt the day belonged to Pakistan who are placed in a commanding position. I can understand why Misbah wanted to bowl first because Pakistan batters tend to be slow starters in new series schedules. Therefore, he wanted to give them more time to have a look and get settled. Also, the other 3 times he has won the toss and bowled he achieved a superb draw and 2 comprehensive victories. He had confidence in his bowlers to get the early breakthroughs and batsmen to chase in the 4th innings which speaks a lot about him and his team. It was a tremendous outside of the box decision from him which many captains would have been very reluctant to do. The results are there for one and all to see.
Team selection: Pakistan left out Wahab Riaz and Abdur Rehman. They decided to play 3 front line pacers. Junaid Khan was the surprise selection and the Lancastrian overseas player was sensational during the afternoon session where he claimed 3 wickets in quick session in his first proper test against a major test force. It was an incredible spell of left arm pace. As expected Shafiq got preference at number 6 with the omission of Umar Akmal. Is Pakistan’s lack of batting a concern? Gul, Ajmal, Junaid, Cheema in the absence of Rehman and Wahab who both can be handy down the order.
-This is the 7th time in 8 tests Pakistan is in the field on day 1.
-Misbah has won 5 tosses in 8 tests and decided to bowl first on 4 occasions.
-Pakistan has 2 bowlers who are playing only their 2nd test in the current attack.
In other news today Afridi has officially announced his return to international cricket putting an end to the conditional retirement following his removal from captaincy after the ODI series against the West Indies in May. Whether he will be selected for the Sri Lanka ODI series remains to be seen.
Sessions: All 3 belonged to Pakistan. 3-0.
Score Line: Sri Lanka 198 AO Junaid Khan 5/38. Pakistan 27/0 (8).
Ball of the day: Junaid uprooting the stumps and giving the SL keeper the death rattle early in the piece. He was overwhelmed. Pakistan had turned the tables. It was magical viewing.
Player of the day: Junaid Khan. He made a bold statement in his first international match of any kind within Asia and against an Asian team. He wasn’t expected to play by any stretch of the imagination, but Mohsin and Misbah included him and backed him all the way. The Abbatobad youngster produced some excellent deliveries and was having a great time of it. He came out with a 5 for. The first bowler to get one at Abu Dhabi (a venue where it’s only test produced 27 wickets). Adnan Akmal was also worth a mention with 4 dismissals.
Looking ahead: Pakistan batsmen will be looking to get stuck
in, apply themselves at the wicket, work their socks off, dig in long and deep,
pile up the runs, wear out the bowlers and gain a sizeable first innings lead
to put the visitors under pressure. They can afford to take their time. Grit,
application, solid temperament, determination, mental toughness and the ability
to value their wicket and scrap hard for their runs is the strength of the
current Pakistan top 6 which they will be looking to portray again here. They
should be rewarded for this discipline, stamina, patience and sound defences. A
total of approximately 400 will be very pleasing. They’ll be looking to bat to
around lunch time on day 3 and really tuck into this inexperienced bowling
attack. They’ll be looking for a centurion or two.