The last time Pakistan won a Test, it was against Sri Lanka in Galle a year ago on Sunday.
Pakistan’s captain, Babar Azam, wants to finally get another win in the match that starts on the same date and ground.
“Really excited to be back in red-ball format, and everyone is watching the Galle Test because we are ready for the challenge,” Azam told reporters on Saturday.
The batter is the only cricket player in the world who is ranked in the top three in all three formats: third in Tests, first in ODIs, and second in T20 internationals.
But his team’s form is very different. They haven’t won any of their last six Tests, and their only long-format win since the beginning of 2022 was in Galle last year.
Azam said, “We are taking things one step at a time, but we need to be consistent in all formats.”
“Going into the Galle Test, one of the good things is that 13 of our players were here a year ago.”
The two-match series is the start of their involvement in the ICC World Test Championship 2023–2025, and Azam was happy to see Shaheen Shah Afridi back in the team.
The fast bowler has taken 99 wickets in Tests so far, and he wants to be the fourth-fastest Pakistan quick to get to 100 wickets.
After getting hurt at the same Galle ground a year ago, he has been waiting to hit the goal.
“In addition to his ability to take wickets, his presence always inspires and pushes the team. I know Shaheen has missed red-ball cricket and is eager to play Test cricket,” the captain said.
Pakistan will get as much information about the other team as they can from their new team head, Mickey Arthur, who used to train Sri Lanka.
“Like any host country, Sri Lanka will want to play to their strength, which is spin bowling,” said Azam.
“Their former coach told us good things about the Sri Lankan team, and I think we’re ready to take them on.”
Sri Lanka’s leader, Dimuth Karunaratne, said that his team’s main goal in the ICC World Test Championship was to win all of their home games and a few of their games away from home. This would give them a chance to make it to the finals.
“It’s a good idea to start the World Test Championship with a home series,” he said.
“We know who our opponents are. If we had won the two Tests against Australia and Pakistan last year, we could have easily made it to the playoffs.
“We’ve learned from our mistakes, and we’re ready for the first Test.”
Sri Lanka is sending out almost the same team that beat Ireland 2-0 in a two-game series in April. Asitha Fernando has been replaced by Kasun Rajitha as the only change.
Karunaratne said that the starters had to get through Shaheen’s overs.
He said, “Once the ball gets old and with the wind, he can also turn it around.”
“If you look at Pakistan, they are well prepared in every way,” he said.
“Both teams are sure of themselves, but we want to win every session and win the match.”