Ajmal vows to make his mark
Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal has played down his disappointing statistics in the first two Tests against Sri Lanka and vowed to raise his game in the third and final Test, which gets under way at Sharjah on Thursday.
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The 36-year-old claimed just two wickets in the drawn first Test and added only three in the nine-wicket defeat in the second Test in Dubai.
But Ajmal, who has taken 164 wickets in 32 Tests, has not taken the poor form to heart, saying he had never had such a bad response from the pitches and promising he will do his best to improve his series averages over the next five days.
"I did a lot of hard work but couldn't get a good result," he was quoted in the national press as having told reporters. "But I have never been disappointed with cricket and will try to perform good in this (third Test) match and help the team to win it."
He continued: "I don't feel that if the performance is not good in the last two matches I should be disappointed.
"I am doing the hard work and will bounce back. The ball isn't spinning and they are playing cautiously. If I had got some spin, the result would have been different.
"I have been playing in Dubai for the last six years, but haven't seen such a bad response as here."
Ajmal has played in all three formats since his international debut in 2008, but insisted he was not suffering from burnout.
"We don't play that much Test cricket, so there's no workload on me," he said.
"There's no pressure. It's cricket and there are ups and downs. They (Sri Lanka batsmen) are relaxed while facing me and that's why they are playing me well."
Angelo Mathews hinted after leading his side to their emphatic victory on Sunday - his first away win as Sri Lanka captain - that he would prefer to stick with the same XI for the final Test.
Sri Lanka fielded a new-look bowling attack featuring pace trio Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep along with the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath - but no recognised second spinner, leaving Mathews to call upon Kumar Sangakkara's off-spin on the fourth evening.
And Mathews, top scorer in this series with 290 runs from three innings, sees no reason to change a winning formula.
He said on Cricinfo: "When we go into a Test match we take our best bowlers, so if someone gets injured, we can't always bank on having a back-up.
"If we look at the batsmen, even if four of them are wicketkeepers, they have done their jobs. Unless the pitch is very different, I don't think we need to make any changes."
Mahela Jayawardene sustained a hand injury during the second Test but should be fit to feature in the game, which will be Graham Ford's last as head coach after the South African opted in September not to extend his two-year term beyond this series.