Pakistan will face their first big test in Asia Cricket Cup league match in Dhaka today when they take on Sri Lanka, who were outclassed by India on Tuesday.
Pakistan started their campaign on a winning note by beating Bangladesh on Sunday even though it was a close shave for them given the home team’s fighting performance in a steep chase.
But for unpredictability of Pakistan, both the teams seem quite a match for each other on paper.
Even Pakistan has a long batting order to boast off and they have destructive Shahid Afridi, who can snatch a game but, like his team, is not consistent enough. He can be game-changer one day but can also be a complete letdown the next. But Pakistan can bank on his leg-break bowling which comes in handy almost always.
Their openers notched up good scores against Bangladesh but the experienced middle-order comprising the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq failed to fire.
Bowling too was unimpressive against a side which is considered a minnow at international level. Pace spearhead Umar Gul was expensive and would have to get his act together quickly as his form is crucial to the team’s chances.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, suffered a blow on Wednesday when influential all-rounder Angelo Mathews was ruled out for the rest of the Asia Cup due to a calf injury.
Sri Lanka failed in chasing job against India. Faced with a mammoth 304, the islanders fell short by 50 runs despite the fact that they have a batting order that runs deep.
Now they are in a must-win situation, Tuesday loss has put them under pressure.
Sri Lanka, who arrived in Bangladesh with lot of confidence after finishing second in Australian tri-series, are in danger of crashing out early.
Format of four-nation tournament does not allow teams to relax unlike tri-series in Australia where each side played against the other four times before the finals.
Here, they play only once against each other. If Sri Lanka defeated by Pakistan, then will have only one game left, against hosts Bangladesh. Even a win there might not be enough to take them to the final on March 22. Pakistan, who won opening game, can move closer to a final berth with a win here against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka will have to recall Lasith Malinga, who was surprisingly left out against India. In such a crunch game, Malinga will have a huge role to play.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Hammad Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shahid Afridi, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Angelo Mathews (vice-captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Farveez Maharoof, Sachithra Senanayake, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal.
Umpires: Steve Davis & Paul Reiffel (Both Australia) Third Umpire: Sharfuddoula (Bangladesh) Match Referee: David Boon (Australia). (PPI)