'Sri Lanka are not going to play for a draw' - Chandimal

Dinesh Chandimal drives on the up
Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Dubai October 06, 2017

Sri Lanka stand on the verge of a rare feat. Since beating Pakistan in Pakistan at the turn of the century, they have won only one away series against opposition excluding Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. That was the 2014 series against England and like the 1999-00 series against Pakistan, it was a humdinger - both triumphs built in equal parts skill, wit, will and grit.

That is probably the best way to get a measure of the scale of their achievement in Abu Dhabi last week, inflicting on Pakistan their first defeat at the venue. Look where it leaves them. And Look at the circumstances out of which it was born.

The temptation will be to put that win down to Pakistan doing another Pakistan, or to Sri Lanka relying on some late-career Rangana Herath magic. Neither are untrue. But there was more to it.

They were in control of their destiny until that fourth afternoon collapse and throughout Pakistan's chase. From Dimuth Karunaratne's first-day calm through Dinesh Chandimal's nine-hour epic via two essential (and responsible) contributions from Niroshan Dickwella right down to Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep outbowling Pakistan's pace attack, this was much, much more than just Herath.

Not the best time then, you might think, to be playing your first day-night Test. Sri Lanka did arrange a pink-ball trial in their last domestic season but, bizarrely, it was a day game. The tourists enter this as good as blind.

They continue to put faith in their traditional strengths, and go in with three spinners on a surface Chandimal noted for being "really dry", as much as the one in Abu Dhabi. The pitch will, he predicted, bring spinners into play over the last couple of days.

Last year, in Pakistan's day-night Test here against West Indies, Pakistan scored nearly 600 in their first innings, for the loss of only three wickets. They crumbled for 123 in their second, Devendra Bishoo's legspin accounting for eight wickets. But the pitch was still firm enough over the last two days for West Indies to get within 56 runs of chasing 346 on the final day.

Plenty of responsibility will still fall on Lakmal and Pradeep. "I think especially with the pink ball, I played one game in domestic cricket, and I feel the first 20 to 25 overs there is a bit seam and swing," Chandimal said. "I mean more helpful for the fast bowlers and especially when the ball gets old there is a lot of reverse swing. Nothing that much for the spinners so I think it is really helpful for the fast bowlers as far as I am concerned."

They have the benefit of being able to pick nearly the same XI - only Lahiru Thirimanne is a doubt. Some stiffness in his back kept him off the field on the final day in Abu Dhabi and if he doesn't wake up well tomorrow, it could mean a debut for wicketkeeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama.

Ultimately, personnel issues and even conditions may not matter as much as the approach they take. Few teams nowadays set out to draw Tests but for a side in the kind of form Sri Lanka is in, unfamiliarity with winning can seep into how they approach sessions or days. Sri Lanka don't have to look too far or long back - it was in Sharjah in January 2014 where Angelo Mathews' defensiveness resulted in a series levelled rather than one won.

"Actually we are looking to win so we are not going to play for draw," Chandimal said. "That is our main target that we are going to [go for a] win. We just need to go back to our basics.

"In Abu Dhabi the pitch was totally different to the last two series. We saw on the last day there were so many cracks. When we come to Dubai it normally suits the spinners, lot of grip so this will be a really good game for both sides."

The final word then, as it was in Abu Dhabi, as it is so often with Sri Lanka and especially so in this rivalry, for Herath.

"As far as I am concerned throughout my career normally the Pakistan batters they really struggle against left-arm spinners. We all know Rangana is a legend and he is an outstanding bowler so I am sure he will be a really good asset for this game as well."

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