Top-heavy Sri Lanka take on sedate Pakistan
March 15, 2012
Start time 1400 (0800 GMT)
The best and worst of Pakistan's unpredictability were on display against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup opener on Sunday. The batting was a rollercoaster ride from a high of 135 for 1, a low of 198 for 7 and a surge to 262 for 8. Pakistan then saw the opposition eyeing a win at 224 for 5, before Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal averted what would have been an embarrassing loss with a burst of 5 for 17. The game was Bangladesh's to lose, and they went ahead and lost it. Sri Lanka will not be so helpful to Pakistan.
Pakistan's ODI batting has recently been shaky against fast bowling even in Asia, one of the main reasons for their 0-4 whitewash against England in the UAE. On Sunday, the hard work done by Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed was undone by Pakistan losing three wickets - two of them to hooks off short deliveries - in three overs to Shahadat Hossain.
Their new-found ability under Misbah-ul-Haq to absorb blows and build steadily has worked superbly in Tests; ODIs on the subcontinent have unfortunately degenerated into hitting bouts decided by whose batsmen are more powerful. Back in conditions which their batsmen love, India outgunned Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Pakistan's batting looks thinner when compared to the two other Asian heavyweights, and they cannot depend on their bowlers to bail them out each time the batting misfires. Certainly not in these conditions.
Sri Lanka's worry is not that they lack the firepower in their batting; the issue at the moment is that it is unevenly distributed, with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene opening and Kumar Sangakkara coming in at No. 3. While Jayawardene, batting with much more freedom at the top, has earned the right to continue to open, Sri Lanka need one of their three senior batsmen to drop down the order to guide the inexperience of Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne. The case for that has become stronger with the exit of Angelo Mathews from the tournament.
Sri Lanka LLWLW
In the spotlight
Sri Lanka's fast bowlers allowed India to convert a good total into a challenging one with a variety of full tosses at the death and MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina plundered 78 runs in 43 balls. The bowlers kept going for the yorkers and more often than not, kept missing the blockhole. The short delivery wasn't tried much. Sri Lanka need an improved performance from them tomorrow; another loss in this short tournament could end their chances of making the final.
Mohammad Hafeez was the Man of the Match against Bangladesh for his 89 in an opening stand of 135 and two important wickets. Before that, the last time Hafeez made a fifty was also the last time Pakistan had had a century opening partnership, in November 2011. This shows how important Hafeez's contribution has become, and will be tomorrow, for this Pakistan side.
Pitch and conditions
Chasing is not proving to be that difficult in Bangladesh, though the results of the first two matches don't show it. MS Dhoni said on Tuesday that the Shere Bangla Stadium had been a difficult ground to defend against Sri Lanka with the fast outfield and some dew making batting second relatively easier. But with two sides now having lost after choosing to field, it will be a difficult choice at the toss tomorrow for the winning captain.
Mathews' departure from Bangladesh with a calf injury is a severe blow for Sri Lanka. They missed his calm head during the chase when wickets fell in a heap during the batting Powerplay. With Thisara Perera still uncertain, Sri Lanka's lower middle order does not inspire confidence.
Lasith Malinga's absence from the XI against India was a major talking point. Malinga bowled and batted in the nets today and should come in for Suranga Lakmal.
Sri Lanka (likely): 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Dinesh Chandimal, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Upul Tharanga, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Farveez Maharoof, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Seekkuge Prasanna, 11 Lasith Malinga
Pakistan (likely): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Younis Khan 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Aizaz Cheema
Stats and trivia
"[If] we win, we are more or less through. The preparation has been okay, a couple of days to lead up to the second match. We had an opportunity to look at the opponent yesterday."
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo