HAMBANTOTA: Sri Lanka and Pakistan will test each other's strengths ahead of the World Twenty20 tournament later this year when they clash in a two-match series starting on Friday.
The Twenty20 games in southern Hambantota on Friday and Sunday are a prelude to the fourth edition of the world event that will be played in Sri Lanka in September-October.
"With the World T20 coming up in a few months, this series against Pakistan is very important for us," Sri Lanka's veteran captain Mahela Jayawardene said on Thursday.
"We're using these two games to find the right combination so we will mix and match. We need to make a statement in this series."
The absence of Pakistani players from the Indian Premier League (IPL) could give Sri Lanka the initial advantage at the start of the tour that also includes five one-day internationals and three Test matches.
Several Sri Lankan stars like Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga played in the cash-rich Twenty20 event in India that ended last Sunday.
But the Pakistanis, who won the World Twenty20 title in England in 2009, have been kept out of the IPL after the inaugural edition in 2008 reportedly over security fears.
Pakistan played their last Twenty20 international in February when they lost a three-match series 2-1 to England in the United Arab Emirates, and they then played in the one-day Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March.
All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, who replaced Misbah-ul-Haq as Twenty20 captain, said his team was prepared to face the challenge of tackling Sri Lanka in their own backyard.
"Sri Lanka are always a tough opponent, especially at home, but we are well-prepared despite not having played international cricket recently," said Hafeez.
"The boys have worked really hard on their game in the last few weeks and are confident of doing well."
The rivals have played seven Twenty20 internationals so far, with Pakistan winning five and Sri Lanka two.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekera, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Chamara Kapugedera, Upul Tharanga, Isuru Udana.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Khalid Latif, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Shakeel Ansar, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanveer, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Sami, Hammad Azam.
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