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Herath’s form vital for Sri Lanka in test matches

December 29, 2013

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rangana Herath has a history of troubling Pakistan batsmen in test matches and the form of Sri Lanka’s premier leftarm spinner will likely again be vital when the sides start their three-test series on Tuesday.

Herath missed his team’s 3-2 loss in the one-day series due to the death of his mother and has returned to bolster a bowling attack that struggled against the likes of Mohammad Hafeez, who scored three centuries.

With 51 wickets in 12 tests, Herath has been impressive against Pakistan but Sri Lanka will go into the first test after a nine-month break from the long form of the game since last playing against Bangladesh in March.

“I have done well against Pakistan, I have more than 50 wickets, but everything is (in the) past,” Herath said on Sunday. “I feel you can only take it as confidence but it’s past so I need to start from the beginning day after tomorrow.”

The long break from test matches is something that Herath said he has no control over but what matters for him is how quickly he adjusts to the slow wickets in the United Arab Emirates.

“If you play regular cricket, then your form is much easier to keep,” said Herath, who has 200 wickets in 47 test matches. “If you play like this, you need practice and need more tests, but you can’t control those things.”

The left-arm spinner is likely to grind out long spells against Pakistan’s strong batting lineup that has scored prolifically on the UAE’s batting friendly wickets.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has been scoring consistently in 2013 and Hafeez was duly rewarded for his brilliant three centuries in the ODI series when selectors recalled him for the tests. And with the likes of middle order batsman Younis Khan and openers Shan Masood and Khurram Manzoor, Pakistan’s batting lineup could pose real problems for a rusty Sri Lanka.

But for Herath, the left-handed Masood, who made his debut in the drawn 1-1 test series against South Africa in October, is the only new face since the teams last met in a test series in Sri Lanka last year.

“As always, I am ready for long spells,” Herath said. “I have played tests and bowled longer spells and that’s why the selectors keep faith in me that I can bowl long spells.”

Sri Lanka batting will also be strengthened with the return of the experienced Mahela Jayawardene, who was given paternity leave, and also missed the one-day series.

Herath refused to be drawn into a comparison with Pakistan’s key offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who was man of the series in last year’s three-test series against the then No. 1-ranked England.

“Even if I take my record in tests I have done well in the last four, five years, so somebody can say that it’s a battle,” he said. “I am not concerned about Ajmal, I am concerned about my team and how I am going to perform.”

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