Sri Lanka: Pakistan and Sri Lanka begin the third and final Test in Pallekele on Sunday seeking an exciting finale on what appears to be a result-oriented wicket. (PALLEKELE)
Both sides were relieved that the greenish pitch looked different from the lifeless track prepared for the rain-hit second Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo, which ended in a tame draw.
Sri Lanka, who won the first Test in Galle, are hoping to record their first series win in three years since defeating New Zealand 2-0 at home in 2009.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene insisted the hosts will go all out to win the final Test even though a draw would be enough to seal the series.
Light rain has been forecast for next week, but the ground staff were confident the weather would not interfere with the cricket.
The Pallekele stadium, built in 2009 on the outskirts of the hill town of Kandy, has hosted two drawn Tests so far, both of which were interrupted by bad weather.
Pakistan vice-captain Mohammad Hafeez, who scored 196 in the second Test, hoped dry weather would enable the tourists to seek a series-levelling win.
The batting flourished during the Colombo Test with Azhar Ali joining Hafeez as the team’s other century-maker in a first innings total of 551-6 declared after being sent in to bat.
Pakistan then dismissed the hosts for 391, grabbing the last five wickets for 21 runs, after centuries from Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan had lifted Sri Lanka to a comfortable 236-1.
Young left-arm seamer Junaid Khan claimed a five-wicket haul on a pitch that offered him no help and was deservedly named the man of the match in the batsmen-dominated Test.Pakistan had enjoyed an impressive run before the current series, winning seven of their last nine Tests, including a brilliant 3-0 whitewash of top-ranked England earlier this year.
But their hopes of clinching a 1-1 scoreline rest on how quickly they can dismiss Sangakkara, who scored an unbeaten 199 in the first Test and 192 in the second.