Sri Lanka batting maestro Mahela Jayawardene looks on during a practice session in Galle yesterday, ahead of his team's first Test against Pakistan. Jayawardene will retire from Test cricket at the end of this two-match series. PHOTO: REUTERS
Rusty Pakistan and overworked Sri Lanka are set for an enthralling contest when they open a two-Test series in Galle on Wednesday, the last for the retiring Mahela Jayawardene.
The former Sri Lankan captain, whose elegant batting has seen him rise to sixth place in the all-time scorers' list with 11,671 runs in 147 Tests, is due to quit the longer format after the series.
But rival captains Misbahul Haq of Pakistan and Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka will look to put aside the emotions of a farewell series as they find themselves battling contrasting worries.
While Pakistan may be under-prepared for their first Test series since January, Mathews said his team were "drained mentally and physically" due to a surfeit of international cricket.
Sri Lanka have been on the road since the start of the year, touring the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh and England for Test and limited-overs cricket before last month's home series against South Africa.
Mathews rued the absence of a cooling-off period as he announced on Tuesday that seamer Suranga Lakmal would miss the series due to an ankle injury sustained against South Africa.
"Pakistan have had a good rest whereas we have been playing continuous cricket," the Sri Lankan captain said. "It's always good to get some rest to refresh your minds and bodies.
"That is the challenge we are facing as players. When you are playing constantly, you get drained mentally and physically. But the challenge for us is to try and be consistent.
"It works both ways. They [Pakistan] can be a bit rusty, but you never know. They are very unpredictable. They come out all guns blazing. They are a very formidable team when it comes to Tests."
Pakistan fought back to play out a 1-1 draw in their last Test series against Sri Lanka in the UAE in January, but have not won a series since beating England in 2012.
Misbah said his team were determined to win their first series in Sri Lanka since 2006.
"We have tried our best to get ready for this," the Pakistan captain said. "We had a good training camp before we came here. We worked hard on our fitness. Everybody is excited about the series.
"We know what to expect in Sri Lanka, who are a very strong side at home," he said. "So you need to play hard, disciplined cricket to come good against them."
Misbah said his team would target the retiring Jayawardene in the two matches since he could be the danger man for Sri Lanka.
"He is one of the best batsmen in the world. We don't want him to score runs, because if he gets runs it will be difficult for us to raise our game," he said.
"We will be really focusing on that and try our best to get him out early."