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Captain Karunaratne regrets missing ODI series in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne feels like he gets “more than 100%“ security in Pakistan, and much regrets skipping a one-day series in Karachi three months ago. Karunaratne, who also leads the one day side, was among 10 leading Sri Lanka players who missed the series in Karachi and Lahore due to security concerns.

“I really regret, I should have had come then and played,” Karunaratne said Wednesday on the eve of the second test against Pakistan in this southern port city. “I think at that time it was really a hard decision to take because I’d never been in Pakistan,” Karunaratne said, explaining why he didn't come for the one day series. “I heard lots of things about Pakistan in news and social media, not positive things. But once the guys who came here said good comments (about Pakistan), all the guys decided we should go and play a test series.”

The two-match test series is the first in Pakistan since terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus at Lahore in 2009. The ambush killed eight people and injured several players and officials. Pakistan's government has provided high level security for the current tour. Sri Lanka's players relaxed by visiting a shopping mall in Islamabad during the first test and went for dinner to a famous restaurant in Karachi.

“The guys who are giving us security, it's more than 100%. That’s why we feel really good and that’s why we went out for dinner as well,“ Karunaratne said. “They gave us a privacy to have a good meal and then we safely came back to our hotel.”

None of the Sri Lanka players has experience of playing at Karachi’s National Stadium, where former Pakistan captain Younis Khan scored a triple century during the 2009 test series. “I’m still collecting the stats and everything,” Karunaratne said. “It’s not easy when you don’t have home advantage.”

Bad weather marred the first test in Rawalpindi last week, which was drawn amid some confident batting from both sides. Led by Dhananjaya de Silva’s sixth test hundred, Sri Lanka scored 308-6 before declaring its first innings. But in the absence of the injured Suranga Lakmal, who pulled out of the tour due to dengue fever at the last minute, Sri Lanka's bowlers struggled.

Pakistan's opening batsman Abid Ali scored a century, thus becoming the first male cricketer to get a ton on his one day and test debuts. Babar Azam got his second century in the last three test matches, as over 12,000 enthralled home fans watched at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

Sri Lanka suffered another blow when paceman Kasun Rajitha pulled a left hamstring, and he has been ruled out of the second test. Karunaratne said the team management will finalize the lineup after assessing the wicket before the toss on Thursday.

“If they leave the grass we will definitely play with three seamers,“ he said. “If they cut the grass we will play two spinners.“ Pakistan made one enforced change after fast bowler Usman Shinwari, who made his test debut at Rawalpindi, was ruled out due to typhoid.

Legspinner Yasir Shah will likely replace Shinwari, having been dropped from the Rawalpindi test and since working on his action and googlies with spin consultant Mushtaq Ahmed in Lahore. Captain Azhar Ali’s woeful batting form has continued. He has compiled only 162 runs in his last 12 test innings at a meager average of 13.50.

“I am not scoring but whenever I go out to bat I really feel good,” he said defiantly. “When you are not performing, you do get criticized.“

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