Third Test preview: Pakistan v Sri Lanka

International cricket returns to Sharjah on Thursday as Pakistan and Sri Lanka look to wrap up the Test portion of their tour.

International cricket returns to Sharjah on Thursday as Pakistan and Sri Lanka look to wrap up the Test portion of their tour.

With off-field drama dominating the Pakistan headlines in the days leading up to the Test, Misbah-ul Haq's men will look to bring some cheer on the field. And if their recent form is anything to go by they may just do so, heading into the game with a one-nil lead.

Two partnerships aside, Sri Lanka's batting has been woeful thus far in the series. If they are to have any chance of turning matters around they need to start getting big scores on the board. Unfortunately the question of 'where will they come from?' is not an easy one for Geoff Marsh to answer.

Up front, Tharanga Paranavitana and Lahiru Thirimanne have both notched up one half-century apiece but little else. Stability at the top certainly wouldn't go amiss, but with skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan horribly out of form it's been made quite clear he won't be moving back up the order.

Kumar Sangakkara has been the visitors' best batsman but even he would have been hoping for greater consistency. But it's Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan who really need to up their game. The duo have both reached double figures just once in four attempts. And it's here that the quandary lies for Marsh; what do you do when your 'undroppable' players aren't performing?

One imagines that the status quo will be retained for the foreseeable future but it certainly leaves Sri Lanka in an uncomfortable position. However, talented players like Dilshan and Jayawardene are more than capable of turning things around.

There will almost certainly be changes in the bowling department with a second spinner in the form of Suraj Randiv replacing one of the quick men. Suranga Lakmal could be the man to make way for Ranidv which seems a touch harsh as Lakmal has toiled hard, but unfortunately wickets are the order of the day. Lakmal may be handed a reprieve, though, if it is felt that Dhammika Prasad did not make the most of his chance in the second Test.

Conversely, Pakistan will be more than happy with the way the series has progressed. All of their batsmen have contributed at some stage and the bowlers have taken 20 wickets in both Tests.

While the selection of a second spinner in for the Dubai Test may not have been the best option, Pakistan are likely to retain Abdur Rehman for the Sharjah finale.

Pakistan certainly hold the edge heading into the clash, in terms of form, momentum and the all important one-nil series lead, but skipper Misbah-ul Haq insisted his team have no intention of playing for the draw.

"We will go for another win at Sharjah and I have told the players to go positively, in the same manner as they have been doing," he asserted.

<b>Key Men</b><BR><i>Pakistan:</i> <b>Umar Gul</b> has taken some crucial early wickets for Pakistan and his ability to put the opposition on the back foot first up could be prove the difference.

<i>Sri Lanka:</i> <b>Mahela Jayawardene</b> has to find some semblance of form in the final Test. The middle-order man has been uncharacteristically poor with both the bat and in the field and will desperately looking for some redemption.

<B>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</B><br>October 2011, Second Test at Dubai: Pakistan won by nine wickets<br>October 2011, First Test at Abu Dhabi: Match drawn<Br>July 2009, Third Test at SSC: Match drawn<Br>July 2009, Second Test at PSS: Sri Lanka won by seven wickets<br>July 2009, First Test at Galle: Sri Lanka won by 50 runs

<b>Prediction</b><BR>Pakistan have dominated with both bat and ball and even if the Sri Lankans improve their batting, doubts remain regarding their ability to take twenty wickets. This clash is most likely heading for a draw, with Sri Lanka putting up more fight but not enough to win.

Online betting firm <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Sky Bet</B></a> has Pakistan at 1/4 in the <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>betting</B></a> for victory in the third Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket betting.

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><I>Pakistan:</i> Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (wk), Umar Gul, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan.

<i>Sri Lanka:</i> Tharanga Paranavitana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), Angelo Mathews, Kaushal Silva (wk), Rangana Herath,Dammika Prasad, Chanaka Welegedera, Suraj Randiv.

<B>Dates:</B> 3 -7 November<BR><B>Morning session:</B> 10:00-12:00 (06:00-08:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:40-14:40 (08:40-10:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:00-17:00 (11:00-13:00 GMT)

<B>On-field umpires:</b> Shahvir Tarapore and Simon Taufel<Br><b>Third umpire:</b> PCB appointment<Br><b>Match referee:</b> David Boon

<B>Julia Harris</B>