Angelo Matthew will lead his side into its first five-day game in nine months.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews admitted his team faces the challenge of overcoming rustiness as they play their first Test for nine months when they line up against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka have not played since beating minnows Bangladesh 1-0 in a two-Test series at home in March and their last Test against a major opponent was in January when they played Australia.
“We are playing a Test match after a long time and that’s a challenge for us as a team. We’ve played some four-day cricket, but it’s not as good as playing a Test,” said Mathews on Monday.
“There will be a bit of rustiness – there might be.”
South Africa failed the challenge when they played Pakistan in October — also their first since February — and lost in Abu Dhabi by seven wickets.
However, the Proteas, ranked number one in Tests, went on to level the series 1-1 with a win in the second Test in Dubai.
Sri Lanka’s second challenge in the three-Test series will be to thwart wily Saeed Ajmal, and Mathews showed confidence his team will cope well against the Pakistani off-spinner.
“Ajmal has been talked about a lot in the team and we’ve made plans about how we are going to play him,” said Mathews of Ajmal who took 18 wickets in Pakistan’s 1-0 win in the three Tests here in 2011.
“There’s good experience in the team, if you take (Kumar) Sangakkara, Mahela (Jayawardene) and Prasanna Jayawardene. With that experience we should be able play him well, give him no wickets and make big totals.”
Sangakkara accumulated a mammoth 516 in the three Tests in 2011 and then amassed 490 in three Tests when Sri Lanka beat Pakistan at home last year.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq vowed his team will carry the confidence of a 3-2 one-day series win over Sri Lanka last week.
“Our team is in good shape and we are confident but we aren’t going to be complacent. Every game is a new game and you can’t just sit and think we are in good flow so its easy to go along,” said Misbah, who termed Sri Lanka a tough opponent.
“They are a top side and competitive one to play with, so you need to be at your best to do well against them. We have kind of bowlers who can really challenge the opposition and I am confident we are going to put a good show,” said Misbah.
The second Test will be played in Dubai (January 8-12) and the third in Sharjah (January 16-20).