Let us hope for the sake of Test Cricket, and the two sides, that that pitch was just an aberration, rather than a precedent set for pitches in the United Arab Emirates
The selection of the squad left you shaking your head as to why fate is being tempted by including a noted trouble maker in Shoaib Malik into a Team that has been harmonious since England last year. Then the inclusion of Imran Farhat, just defied belief in the wake of the successful Pakistan transitioning of youth into the Team. Also the big hearted Tanvir Ahmed, who bowled exceptional well in the respective game last year was extremely unlucky to miss out
Of the players selected, this would be my Team
Mohammad Harfeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Mishbah ul Haq (C), Asad Shafique, Adnal Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Saeed Ajmal
Key For Pakistan To Win
The Team has fragility in their batting line up especially at the top of the order. Where both Mohammad Harfeez and Taufeeq Umar have yet to establish themselves as being Test calibre. This is an obvious weakness for Pakistan for oppositions to exploit. Though will likely be covered by the batting friendly pitch and the weaknesses apparent in the Sri Lankan bowling line up
So you can envision the batting being fine in this Test, and the whole series.
Thus the key to the outcome of this game will be how penetrative the bowling can be. This is in serious doubt because of the pitch expected and the suitability it has for the Sri Lankan batsmen. Especially two very fine batsmen in Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who will be determined to excel in this series. After relatively poor series by both against Australia.
For Pakistan to have a chance to win, both these exceptional batsmen have to be neutralised.
The team would be better served including Abdur Rehman's useful left arm spin as part of a 5 man attack. Though for this to happen, you would need a keeper that is more accomplished with the bat than Adnan Akmal has shown in his career to date
So without the support of a 5 man attack in unforgiving bowling conditions. A huge burden will fall on what is the strength of Pakistan's bowling in it spin department to excel against Sri Lankan batsmen who are excellent players of spin. Both Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Harfeez have been exceptional with the ball in 2011, and need to continue this in this Test for Pakistan to win
To support the spin department, the pace men have to perform. In Umar Gul you have a big hearted performer, and we all love him, but he needs to lift his threat in the Test arena.
For his return of 125 wickets at an average of 34.41 from his 35 Tests is not good enough for a bowler of his talent
In Wahab Riaz and Aizaz Cheema, you have two pace men that are relatively unknown on the International scene, but both have pace and skill. Duly the shock value means a wicket haul by either wouldn't surprise at all
My Star Man- Azhar Ali
I have been a huge fan of this very refined top order batsmen since first seeing him in England last year, and fully expect him to have a break out series here in the desert.
The Sri Lankan's, in truth were very average against the Australians in a series in home conditions that they usually excel in. Here the main talking point is what role Captain Tillakaratne Dilshan assumes in the batting line up, and then the composition of it's attack. It is Geoff Marsh's first Test as Sri Lankan Coach, so you can expect a conservative approach at the Selection table.
Though if it was my choice, this would be the Team. That would consist of a 5 man attack
Dilshan, Thirimanne, Sangakkara, Mahela, Mathews, Prasana, Randiv, Herath, Lakmal, Pradeep, Welegedera
Key For Sri Lanka To Win
The Sri Lankan Team is in truth a carbon copy of the Pakistan Team from a bowling sense. In regards to having an unproven attack, and a reliance on a spinner in this regard the wily left armer Rangana Herath.
Hopefully Sri Lanka roll the dice and include the express fast man Nuwan Pradeep, who could make a few Pakistani batsmen jump with his pace and unpredictability. Then a huge factor for the success of the bowling attack will be the ability of the Sri Lankan pace men to get the ball to swing both traditionally and reverse. In the Australia series, both Suranga Lakmal and Chanaka Welegedera showed an ability to do this, and it will be a huge factor in this series.
The batting has to support the bowling by increasing a ridiculously slow run rate shown in the Australia series. That was fuelled by virtually no attacking intent shown. Here against Pakistan, and it's very respectable spinners, the batsmen have to show an intent to attack and get on top of them. For if they don't, the very fine Pakistan Skipper Misbah ul Haq will just have plenty of men around the bat, and no batsman enjoys that!
A key in this is Tillakaratne Dilshan returning back to opening and giving Sri Lanka a real platform with his attacking stroke play. Which when it comes off puts the opposition on the back foot, and duly allows the excellent Sri Lankan middle order to excel.
Sri Lankan Star Man- Angelo Mathews
After his break through performance against Australia, where he scored his first test century. You can expect the very talented all rounder Angelo Mathews being full of confidence in this series. So expect him with his breath taking stroke play and easy natural power to be a huge factor in this Test, and series
I have no trust in an adequate Test Standard pitch being prepared. So sadly in what is an intriguing contest, you can see it being diminished by the conditions, and a score draw being the result
Lets hope that I am wrong about the pitch!!!!!!!!