Pakistan and Sri Lanka will ring in several changes, most of them forced, in a bid to win the decisive third and final Test starting in Pallekele on Friday.
Both are pulling out all the stops to break a 1-1 deadlock after Pakistan won the first Test by 10 wickets and Sri Lanka responded with a seven-wicket victory.
For the first time in 15 years since Kumar Sangakkara’s debut in July 2000, Sri Lanka will go into a Test without either him or the retired Mahela Jayawardene.
Sangakkara, Test cricket’s leading current run-getter, committed himself to playing just two Tests against Pakistan and two more against India in August before retiring.
Sangakkara, who has 12,305 runs from 132 Tests, will be replaced at number three by another left-hander Upul Tharanga, 30, who played the last of his 19 Tests a year ago.
“It’s a strange experience to be without Mahela and Sanga but we have some good young players ready to step in,” vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne told reporters on Thursday.
“Upul has been around for a long time and understands the demands of Test cricket.”
Fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera, who suffered a side strain on his debut in the second Test in Colombo, will undergo a fitness test, with Thirimanne rating him 50-50.
Sri Lanka are planning a three-man pace attack, instead of two, on a greenish Pallekele stadium pitch that should initially favour seam movement.
“It’s a good wicket for batting but it does help the fast bowlers at the start,” said Thirimanne. “We may play three seamers and just one spinner.”
Veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who managed just two wickets in the first two Tests, is likely to make way for young off-break bowler Tharindu Kaushal.
If Chameera is unfit, seamer Suranga Lakmal will make his first appearance in the series to share the new ball with Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep.
Pakistan are forced to make two changes, with pace spearhead Wahab Riaz ruled out because of injury and all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez not available after being reported for a suspect action in the first Test.
Left-hand batsman Shan Masood is likely to replace Hafeez at the top of the order and left-arm seamer Rahat Ali could come in for Wahab.
“We will field a combination that is good enough to win the match,” skipper Misbah-ul Haq said.
“With Jayawardene and Sangakkara not there, this is our best chance to beat Sri Lanka.”
Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Junaid Khan, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil, Rahat Ali.
Sri Lanka (from): Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Kithruwan Vithanage, Jehan Mubarak, Kusal Perera, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Tharindu Kaushal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhammika Prasad, Dushmantha Chameera, Suranga Lakmal.