Lahore: In-form Pakistan takes on Sri Lanka in the final of the second Asian Test championship at the Gaddafi stadium starting on Wednesday amid tight security.
The match marks the return of international cricket to Pakistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and Washington's subsequent bombing campaign in Afghanistan. Pakistan played only one home Test last year, against Bangladesh in August. A large contingent of police will be deployed at Wednesday's match but both sides say they are unconcerned over security issues. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are both expected to battle hard in the biennial championship final, which was devalued by India's pullout last year. "It's disappointing India did not participate in this championship but the show must go on and we are ready to put up our best show to become the new Asian champions," Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya said. "I have said this before and I maintain that players are relaxed and we don't have any security worries." Pakistan won the first Asian championship beating Sri Lanka in the final at Dhaka, Bangladesh, by an innings and 175 runs in 1998-99. "Both teams are playing well recently so it will be an exciting Test match," Jayasuriya said. Off spinner Muthiah Muralitharan holds the key for the visitors, having run through Pakistan batting line-ups in Sri Lanka's last two series wins in Pakistan in 1995-96 and 1999-2000. "Muralitharan is our key player but other bowlers are also doing well so it would be a team effort,"Jayasuriya said. The demon spin-king took 80 wickets in the last calendar year to garner consecutive wins in his team's last eight Tests - all at home. Pakistan hope to counter Muralitharan through the well-grassed pitch here but the Sri Lanka captain was not worried. "The pitch has grass and seems to have bounce and our batting has been supplementing the bowling so it doesn't matter where we play," Jayasuriya said. Home team captain Waqar Younis will face his first real challenge after winning the last six Tests in-a-row, three of them against Test minnows Bangladesh. "I know it's going to be tough but we are a balanced team and it would be an honour to successfully defend the title of best Asian team," Younis said. The hosts are weakened by the absence of experienced paceman Wasim Akram and opener Saeed Anwar - both recovering from injuries. "Both Akram and Anwar are unfit so we have to try some other players and we have options available," said Younis, hinting Pakistan could enter the Test with four seamers, with all-rounder Shoaib Malik used as an opener. Younis acknowledged that Muralitharan is a worry but was not overly perturbed. "All teams fear Muralitharan, there is Muralitharan pressure but they have only one and I won't say he is a threat," he said. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka thrashed Bangladesh by an innings margin in the Asian Championship last year and mutually agreed to abandon the meaningless league game to directly play the final. If the final ends in a draw both teams will share the trophy since they scored an equal number of points, against Bangladesh. Pakistan: Waqar Younis (captain), Inzamam-ul Haq (vice-captain), Taufiq Umer, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Rashid Latif, Abdur Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Zahid, Shoaib Malik, Saqlain Mushtaq and Faisal Iqbal Sri Lanka: Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sungakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Hashan Tillekeratne, Thilan Samaraweera, Chaminda Vaas, Buddhika Fernando, Muthiah Muralitharan, Nuwan Zoysa, Upul Chandana, Tillekeratne Dilshan and Dulip Liyanage Umpires: Daryl Harper (Australia) and Athar Zaidi (Pakistan). TV umpire: Salim Badar (Pakistan). Match referee: Justice Ahmed Ebrahim (Zimbabwe).
No security qualms in Pak, says Lanka coach