With little separating the two teams after the two-match Twenty20 series, marred by a poor batting display, Pakistan will look to continue their impressive record in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against Sri Lanka when the two sides meet in the first game in Pallekele today.
Pakistan have won five of their last six ODIs against Sri Lanka — a 4-1 win in the UAE last November was followed by a convincing victory in their Asia Cup match in Dhaka in March. However, Pakistan’s wave of success in the format, which saw them remain unbeaten in ODI series last year, was marred by a whitewash against England and Misbahul Haq, stripped of the Twenty20 captaincy, will not have forgotten that. He will have the services of spin trio – Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez – at his disposal and their role has been crucial in Pakistan winning 16 of their last 22 ODIs. Afridi, who scored a brisk half-century and grabbed two wickets in Pakistan’s series-levelling Twenty20 win last Sunday, will once again play a pivotal role.
The pace attack will be spearheaded by Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami and Sohail Tanvir, who was drafted into the squad in place of injured batsman Nasir Jamshed. However, Misbah was wary that a team effort was required to tackle Sri Lanka who have home advantage.
“It’s not about one or two players,” said Misbah. “The whole team has to contribute, because Sri Lanka are tough opponents anywhere and especially at home.”
Pakistan’s batting has been bolstered with the return of Misbah and Younus Khan.
Batting Sri Lanka’s strong point as well
The key to Sri Lanka’s success will be a solid batting performance by Mahela Jayawardene’s men against a side that boasts rich variety in both spin and pace bowling. Sri Lanka will rely heavily on their trusted trio of Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan and despite their shock defeat to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup, which knocked them out of the tournament, the hosts will look to pose a challenge. “Pakistan will be a challenge,” said Jayawardene. “What makes them competitive is the bowling options available, apart from the specialists.” The second ODI will be played on Saturday before the action shifts to Colombo for the last three games on June 13, 16 and 18. The ODIs will be followed by a three-Test series starting on June 22.
Eyeing an improved ranking
For both teams, it is an opportunity to improve their ODI rankings. A 4-1 or better win for sixth-placed Pakistan will put them ahead of Sri Lanka into fifth. Pakistan can even move to fourth if they win all five matches and the West Indies win their series against England, starting today.
Pakistan captain Misbahul Haq
“It’s not about one or two players. The whole team has to contribute, because Sri Lanka are tough opponents anywhere and especially at home.”
Sri Lanka captain M Jayawardene
“Pakistan will be a challenge. What makes them competitive is the sort of bowling options available, apart from the specialists.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.
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