Dilshan wants Herath back-up
Abu Dhabi - Sri Lankan skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan wants his bowlers to help the prolific left-armer Rangana Herath tame Pakistan in the first Test starting here on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka have struggled in bowling in Tests since the retirement of spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan (highest Test wicket taker with 800), losing three Tests and drawing eight with only Herath threatening to take wickets.
Sri Lanka have also missed slinger Lasith Malinga who retired from Test cricket earlier this year because of injury problems, leaving the new-ball attack in the inexperienced hands of Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal.
Sri Lanka have five fast bowlers for the three-Test series against Pakistan and despite sharing only 58 wickets between them, Dilshan hopes the pacemen will help his team end a victory drought.
"The future for our success lies with our fast bowlers. In the spin department only Herath has proved himself a top-quality bowler," said Dilshan of the spinner who has 100 wickets in 29 Tests.
Herath took 16 wickets in the two of the three Tests he played against Australia last month but found no support from the other end in the home series which Sri Lanka lost 1-0.
"If we hope to win Test matches we will have to have the support of the other spinners as well," said Dilshan of the slow attack which also has off-spinner Suraj Randiv, who has 19 wickets in five Tests.
Sri Lanka will also hope Herath keeps his good record against Pakistan intact, having guided them to a series win in 2009 with 15 wickets in three Tests and 11 in the drawn two-Test series in 2004.
Dilshan was confident his team will adjust to the conditions of United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"This is the first time we are playing the Test series in the UAE. But we got a very good experienced players and I think they should adjust quickly to the conditions," said Dilshan, who took over as captain in May this year.
Coach Geoff Marsh, a former Australian opener who also coached his country and Zimbabwe, hoped a Test victory was imminent.
"We have not won since the past 11 or 12 Tests," said Marsh, who took over as Sri Lankan coach last month. "That for us is past and we have been on a roll over the past three weeks and we have been just focusing on this squad getting ready for this Test series.
"I am sure there is a Test win just round the corner."
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq said Sri Lanka were still formidable even without Murali.
"There is no replacement for Murali, a guy who can take ten wickets in almost every Test. It does make a difference but again, they are a very good side even without Murali.
"Last home series (2009) without Murali they beat us. They have good fast bowlers, good spinners," said Misbah of the Sri Lankan attack which can have only one spinner in Herath on a green-looking Abu Dhabi stadium pitch.
Ever since Misbah took over as captain last year, Pakistan have not lost a series, squaring 1-1 against both South Africa and the West Indies and beating New Zealand and Zimbabwe.
For Pakistan, pacemen Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz return after being rested for the Zimbabwe tour last month.
"In the case of Riaz he has played county games. Gul has just played a four-day game (in Pakistan), so they are looking good," said Misbah, who can also be prompted to play three seamers.
The remaining two Tests will be played in Dubai and Sharjah.