All eyes on Rawalpindi for historic return of Test cricket

2019-12-11 at 07:00

Sri Lanka’s return to Pakistan, 10 years after an attack on their team bus, carries significance beyond the results of the two-Test series beginning in Rawalpindi at 10.15 local time this morning.

Another 120 points in the ICC Test Championship are on offer for Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

These are points Pakistan can urgently use, following Australia’s series sweep over them in November-December.

Sri Lanka ended up sharing points during the home series against New Zealand.

But, in the run-up to the series, the excitement has been less about the on-field contest and more about the larger significance of Test cricket returning to Pakistan.

The visitors arrived to a warm welcome and high security in Pakistan, and have the gratitude of fans for making the trip.

A near full-strength squad agreed to feature in the series.

Pakistan have brought back Fawad Alam, the top-order batsman who has been in fine domestic form, after a gap of 10 years from the national side.

Usman Shinwari also has been included, with Iftikhar Ahmed and Musa Khan left out from the side that suffered two innings defeats in Australia.

The visitors will be without Suranga Lakmal, who has contracted dengue and will miss the series.

He has been replaced by Asitha Fernando.

The Tests will also mark the return of Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s coach until a few months ago – this time in his new role as Sri Lanka coach, following his appointment earlier this month.

Sri Lanka won the last Test series between the teams, handing Pakistan a rare defeat in their adopted home of UAE.

In the first Test, Pakistan couldn’t chase down a target of 136 runs, while in the second, a first-innings 196 from Dimuth Karunaratne set up a 68-run win for Sri Lanka despite them being bowled out for 96 in the second innings and Asad Shafiq making a century in the hosts’ reply.

The last meeting between the sides was the T20Is in Pakistan, where a young Sri Lankan side surprised the No.1 side in the ICC T20I Team Rankings, taking the series 3-0.