Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: May the best team win!

With ICC rankings relying on the upcoming series, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be fighting hard.

Dr Amyn Malyk October 17, 2011
Pakistan will start yet another home series on neutral territory tomorrow as they take on Sri Lanka. This is the first bilateral series at a neutral territory between the two nations after the horrific attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team two years ago.

It is going to be a full series with 3 tests, 5 ODIs and a one off T20 match between two almost evenly matched sides and should be an interesting encounter. Last time Pakistan played in the Middle East against South Africa the tests were a high-scoring draw.

The test series 

Both the teams are going through a transition period - Sri Lanka have lost their most prolific bowler and the architecture of a lot of their wins in Muttiah Murlitharan. This is a huge loss for the team and according to  M Jayawardene:
“Muralithran took 800 Test wickets, the most by any bowler in the world, so you know that with him he’s going to create something for you, even in tough situations. He’s a magician, and without him it’s a big hole to fill.”

The Sri Lankan team have not won any of their last 11 test matches. In the matches played since Murlis retirement, oppositions have had a pretty easy ride. Batting is still strong and they have two (three, if you count Dilshan) world class batsmen that can rip any attack apart. It is the bowling that is a worry especially in the test arena with Malinga making himself available only for the shorter versions of the game. Their fast bowlers are very inexperienced and the only spinner that has stood out in recent times is Herath. Sri Lanka will be hoping that their top and middle order puts up a decent score on board for the bowling to show some teeth. If we go with the averages all their top order batsmen average more than ours.

Pakistan still has an unsettled opening pair. Mohammad Hafeez, who scored a century against Zimbabwe, should be joined by Taufeeq Umar at the top of the order. In Azhar Ali, Pakistan has found someone who knows the value of his wicket and is willing to make the opposition take his wicket rather than gifting it as many others do. He is the perfect man for the number 3 spot, currently. The middle order is looking good with both Younus and Misbah in good form during the past year and Pakistan will rely heavily on them during both the test series and the ODIs. There is no Umar Akmal in the team and his aggression will be missed. The spot should go to either Asad Shafiq or Shoaib Malik. Shoaib Malik wasn’t able to make an impact during his comeback in Zimbabwe and the likelihood of a test comeback at this stage looks bleak.

Bowling attack is back at full strength with the return of Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul. Aizaz Cheema who was very impressive during the tour of Zimbabwe has also found a place in the squad. Pakistan will also be banking on Saeed Ajmal, who has been our second highest wicket taker behind Gul since 2009, and Abdul Rehman who performed decently against South Africa in similar conditions.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka have played out some interesting and nail biting matches over the years.

According to Misbahul Haq:
“If you look at both sides they are evenly balanced, so it’s going to be a tough series. They may have struggled in recent Tests but they have world-class players. We are without some seniors but we still have a good combination.”

Moreover, an added incentive for both teams to perform well is progressing higher in the ICC Test rankings. If Pakistan win the series by a margin of two matches (2-0 or 3-0) then we come to the number 5 spot in the test rankings and if Sri Lanka beat us in the series they will usurp Australia in the rankings.

May the best team win!
Dr Amyn Malyk The author is a PhD student at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who likes to write. He tweets as @amynmalik
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.