Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan is all set to get underway. The fixtures start with the three ODIs at the National Stadium in Karachi and the opening match will be played on Friday. Earlier, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had to name a depleted squad. The same is because 10 of their key players backed out from the tour, citing security concerns. Lahiru Thirimanne is the skipper in Dimuth Karunaratne’s absence.
Even Kusal Mendis was unavailable for selection after sustaining an injury in the T20I series versus New Zealand at home. As far as the hosts are concerned, they retained Sarfaraz Ahmed as their skipper after his indifferent show in the World Cup. The series is also Misbah-ul-Haq’s first assignment as the head coach and will mark the start of Pakistan’s journey after the mega event.
Though Lanka lost to the Kiwis in the shortest format, they whitewashed Bangladesh at home in a three-match ODI series. Coming to the upcoming series, the visiting team will be playing their first full-fledged series in Pakistan since the 2009 bus attack. The Lankans landed in Pakistan a couple of days ago and they were being welcomed whole-heartedly. It’s now time for action on the cricket field.
The hosts are likely to open with Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq. The latter got a ton in Pakistan’s last World Cup match versus the Tigers. However, Fakhar couldn’t get going barring his fifty versus India in Manchester. Babar Azam has been a fulcrum of the team and he needs to step up in order for his team to set a big score. Haris Sohail also got some match-winning knocks in the tournament.
It will be interesting to see whether Sarfaraz is able to repay the faith of the selectors. Asif Ali has the potential to churn out lusty blows from the word go. The batting isn’t short of depth as even Amir and Wahab can add useful runs. Pakistan may go in with both their specialist spinners- Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan. Mohammad Hasnain may get the nod ahead of Usman Khan Shinwari.
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (C & WK) Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain
Avishka Fernando and Sadeera Samarawickrama are most probably the opening batters. The latter has experience at the highest level, having last played ODI cricket in October 2018 against England. The onus will be on Oshada Fernando and Lahiru Fernando to steady the ship in the middle order. Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka can play shots, but need to stay in the middle for long period.
Wanindu Hasaranga and Isuru Udana can’t be undermined as batsmen either. They will also play crucial roles with the ball against a strong Pakistan batting unit. Udana’s change of pace can come in handy on a decent batting strip. Lakshan Sandakan will partner Hasaranga in the spin department. Lahiru Kumara and Nuwan Pradeep will share the new ball with Kasun Rajitha warming the benches.
Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Oshada Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne (C), Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep, Lakshan Sandakan
Focus will be on
Babar Azam (Pakistan)
Babar Azam topped the run-charts for Pakistan in the World Cup. The Lahore-born talent racked up 474 runs at an average of 67.71 with a century against the Black Caps. Then he became the leading run-scorer in the T20 Blast in England, having notched 578 runs at 52.54. It goes without saying that the recently-appointed Pakistan vice-captain is going to be a daunting prospect for the opposition.
Avishka Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Avishka Fernando has turned out to be the X-factor of Lankan batting of late. He doesn’t mind throwing caution to the wind. In the World Cup, he raced away to his maiden ODI century versus the West Indies after returning from injury during the initial part of the tournament. Back in July, he got a 82 against Bangladesh. In an inexperienced batting unit, Fernando needs to be on top of his game.
Head to Head
Matches – 153 | Pakistan won – 90 | Sri Lanka won – 58 | Tied- 1 | NR- 4
Matches – 28 | Pakistan won – 16 | Sri Lanka won – 12 | Tied- 0 | NR- 0
172– Runs Fakhar Zaman needs to complete 2,000 ODI runs.
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Match Timings – 15:00 local time, 15:30 IST, 10:00 AM GMT
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