Hosts excited to face Sri Lanka at Pakistan’s Test ‘fortress’

After the first match ended in a draw on Sunday, Pakistan will be looking to win a Test series on home soil in more than a decade as they face Sri Lanka in the second Test starting Thursday here at the National Stadium.

Pakistan have a phenomenal Test record at the National Stadium, which also earned the venue the nickname ‘Pakistan’s fortress in Test cricket’. They have won 21 out of 41 Tests here with only two resulting in defeats for them.

The second Test also provides Pakistan a chance to bag crucial ICC World Test Championship points, and their captain Azhar Ali is eager to lead the side at the historic venue. “Pakistan have had an excellent record in Test cricket at the National Stadium. The whole team is excited for the match,” Azhar said.

Opening batsman Shan Masood said that he has had ample opportunities to play first-class cricket at the stadium. “Growing up we have seen some of the best cricketing action at the National Stadium. I remember missing my school to watch a 1996 World Cup match between Pakistan and South Africa in which Amir Sohail scored a hundred. Then there was an India-Pakistan match in which Rajesh Chauhan struck a six. That match went into the final over,” Shan recalled.

Asad Shafiq, who boasts the record of most number of Test centuries at number six, is another player in the side who is well-aware of the conditions that the National Stadium offers in red-ball cricket.

The Karachi-born batsman has been on both sides of the fence. “I was screaming at the top of my lungs in the crowd when [Mohammad] Asif bhai got the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar at the National Stadium in a Test match. I had sore throat after the match. It is a memory that I still cherish,” Asad said.

After having stamped his authority in white-ball cricket, Babar Azam has put up imposing performances in Tests and cracked a century on the final day of the Rawalpindi Test on Sunday.

“I am very excited that we are playing the second Test in Karachi. I can’t wait to bat in Test whites at the National Stadium’s wicket after having played T20Is and ODIs there. I am hopeful that our batsmen and bowlers will perform to the fullest and make the series memorable by winning the last Test,” Babar said.

“I request Karachiites to turn out in large numbers and support the return of Test cricket,” he added.

It was Fawad Alam’s talismanic performances at the National Stadium in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy this year which led to a call-up to the Pakistan side. The middle-order batsman scored three centuries — including 211 for Sindh against Southern Punjab — and a half-century in four matches.

“It is certainly a step in the right direction that Test cricket is returning to Karachi. The people of Karachi will come out in large numbers to support both teams, which will inspire younger cricketer to take up the game,” Fawad said.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan also expressed hope that he will be able to entertain the fans with his glove-work and batting in the second Test.

“Karachi has become my city as I have been playing for Karachi in the PSL. I am looking forward to grabbing this opportunity and living up to the expectations of fans,” he said. (Courtesy The News)

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