With Bangladesh having confirmed their spot at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, pressure grows on Pakistan to seal the eighth and final spot as they go into the second ODI against hosts Sri Lanka in Pallekele on Wednesday. With a 1-0 lead already in the bag Pakistan can still gain significant ground if they win the five-match series comprehensively. So far, two matches have been played at the Pallekele between the two opponents and honours remain even at 1-1 in head to heads at the ground.
The venue will evoke fond memories as Pakistan recently chased down their biggest Test target at Pallekele to win the Test series 2-1 — their first Test series win in Sri Lanka for 10 years.
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Though Pakistan cannot count on the services of the heroes of that match — Younus Khan and Shaan Masood — they still have likes of ODI skipper Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah and Rahat Ali; all of whom impressed in that Test.
Former cricketer and junior chief selector Basit Ali feels that the team should forget their win in the first match and play every match as if it is a knockout match. “Pakistan must forget their win in the first match and should instead treat every match like a knockout,” Basit told The Express Tribune. “It’s good that we won the first game and did well in the Test at Pallekele as well but ODIs are a different ball-game altogether. The white ball behaves differently to the red one, while the second innings will be played under lights. I think the team batting first will have the advantage as it isn’t easy to bat under lights at the venue with the ball moving around.”
Pakistan can expect a quick bouncy pitch with Sri Lanka relying heavily on their pacers off late, rather than their spinners. The men in green are expected to play the same eleven that won the first game.
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Basit added that Pakistan must use match-winners Yasir and Sarfraz intelligently. “Yasir will struggle a bit in the ODIs and the captain must ensure he remains in his comfort zone. Even if he leaks some runs, he must be given that confidence and assurance that he belongs in the 50-over format as well,” said Basit. “I also feel the time is right to promote Sarfraz to number five because he can take a game forward. We must develop him into a match-winner in ODIs as well and that will only be possible if he is promoted up the order.”
Meanwhile, former Test player Iqbal Qasim also feels that Yasir can play as pivotal a role in the ODIs as he did in the Tests because he is going through a purple patch.
“Yasir will be feeling that he can pick up wickets and win matches even in the shorter format,” said Iqbal. “Expectations are really high now and I’m sure he’ll deliver. He and Muhammad Hafeez can bowl well in tandem and not allow the batsmen to score freely. It’s great to see him develop in the absence of Saeed Ajmal and it’s a big plus for Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015.
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