Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Fatullah February 24, 2014

Familiar foes in Asia Cup opener


Match facts

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Start time 1400 local (0800 GMT)

Big Picture

While cricket boards slink around wooing the moneyed and coaxing promises of bilateral tours for the new Future Tours Programme, Pakistan and Sri Lanka raise the curtain on the Asia Cup knowing fixtures between the two nations may soon become more common. They already play each other plenty, but having risked ostracisation from cricket's oligarchy at the Singapore meeting, they may find other nations anxious about designing tours with either of them. In short: Sri Lanka v Pakistan could be the new Sri Lanka v India.

But at least if that transpires, the limited-overs encounters may produce good contests. Pakistan won the December ODI series 3-2, but three of those matches featured close finishes. In Bangladesh, the teams appear well-matched again.

Pakistan, as ever, have the better bowling side. Junaid Khan likes taking Sri Lankan wickets so much, he almost bursts a facial vein every time he does it. Sri Lanka had picked Saeed Ajmal apart during the January Tests, but he had been characteristically effective in the ODI series, as had Umar Gul. Sri Lanka matches even appear to bring the grown-up out from behind Shahid Afridi's lustrous beard and resplendently disastrous strokemaking. In the last series, he was almost consistent across two disciplines.

Sri Lanka have the better batting unit. As Tillakaratne Dilshan nurses an injured hand at home, the universe has hinted for the umpteenth time that Mahela Jayawardene should open for Sri Lanka, as both he and the team benefit from his promotion up the order. Kusal Perera has begun to move beyond the Sanath Jayasuriya-shaped shadow his career was forged in, and the middle order has mostly been effective in their two most-recent matches.

The key to the outcome in Fatullah may be whether either team can leverage close knowledge of each other's cricket. Can Pakistan continue to subdue recent-centurion Kumar Sangakkara in the same manner they had done in the UAE tour? Have Sri Lanka come upon a ploy to thwart the suddenly-monstrous Pakistan top order they had encountered in the last series? The tournament is set to be played at a breakneck pace, and a first-up victory may mean more than most.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)
Pakistan: LWWLW
Sri Lanka: WWWWL

In the spotlight

Sohaib Maqsood's busy knocks had helped Pakistan consolidate their innings in the UAE, as he rotated the strike effectively against the likes of Sachithra Senanayake, and struck large, leg-side boundaries to entrench his team's dominance in several of those matches. Sri Lanka are again missing Rangana Herath - the bowler who often exerts control during the middle-overs - and Maqsood will hope to sustain his success in that period.

Thisara Perera had such a poor tour of the UAE, he was denied permission to go to the Big Bash League and was asked instead to train with Sri Lanka's A team. A little tough love from the selectors appears to have done him good. His unbeaten 80 in the first ODI against Bangladesh led Sri Lanka's remarkable resurgence in that match, but Thisara will want to limit the troughs in his career.

Teams news

Having had some time in limited-overs tournaments at home, Pakistan return to internationals with much the same squad that took on Sri Lanka in the UAE. Fawad Alam is one surprise inclusion, but he is unlikely to play in the tournament opener. Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali compete for the third seamer's position.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Sharjeel Khan, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Sohaib Maqsood, 5 Misbah-Ul-Haq (capt.), 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Bilawal Bhatti/Anwar Ali, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan

Two senior Sri Lanka bowlers - Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara - are unavailable, leaving the attack in less-experienced hands. Lasith Malinga and Sangakkara will return after having been rested for the third Bangladesh ODI, and Ashan Priyanjan is likely to assume a place in the middle-order.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Mahela Jayawardene, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Ashan Priyanjan, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Sachithra Senanayake, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Suranga Lakmal

Stats and trivia

  • Mohammad Hafeez hit 448 runs at 149.33 in the UAE series against Sri Lanka
  • Misbah-ul-Haq has hit seven 50-plus scores in his last nine international innings
  • Mahela Jayawardene averages 44.8 and strikes at 91 when opening (32 innings). His career average and strike rate are 33.3 and 78.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manesh on February 25, 2014, 9:51 GMT

    @kanikandy . ha ha ha that's shows your fear dude! You are coming up with lame excuse even before the Ind vs SL match! lol. If it is not fair why your team is playing! If India has that power all trophys must be in Indian cabin! Why are pointing old series when you mention SL and comparing it with India's latest series. What happened in NZ , BD tour to SL. and you failed to win series against Pakistan too!

  • kanishka on February 25, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    even India win one or two matches here it wont be a great thing.They will prove that there are champs in subcontinent.But look at SL records against SA,AUS & ENg in there soil.They Beat Aus 2-1 in 2012 & lost 3-2 australia in australia'They Lost to Sa 3-2 in Sa.All the loosing series were evenly contested ones'They have beaten eng in England very easily.Also dont forget that india is changingicc rules and have taken over ICC powers to manipulate results of the matches every thing has arranged for Indian team comfort.So indian wins can not be consider as fair any more.

  • Usman on February 25, 2014, 9:11 GMT

    @ Mr. Sidh78. U look like to be a stats man. Kindly provide the stats regarding most number of runs conceded in ODIs by a top team. Don't tell me it is INDIA. Haahaahaaa. You given stats against AUS only. Do other teams play cricket? AND mostly, when it is ODIs, kindly give stats related to ODIs. When T/20s, give stats about T/20s. That's comon sense, isn't it? I still say that IND, PAK & SL have equal chances of winning the Asia Cup. One more question: When India would be able to develop a world class fast bowler after Kapil Dev? Specially without the help of the great Wasim Akram. LOL

  • Manesh on February 25, 2014, 8:58 GMT

    @ kanikandy. You cannot find team spirit of Indian team even if they lost in SA and NZ but you can find team spirit of BD even if they lost to SL. too funny!. SL is going to repeat the last Asiacup performance. all the best for that!

  • Android on February 25, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    Bad move by sri lanka and age lo Mathews. . dropping mahela down the order... When they will learn how to utilize the players respective of the situation.. tirimane. . is tuk tuk.. specialist.. Crazy captaincy.. kushal is always gamble.. like casino... If click jackpot or else empty hand.. Enjoy

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    Sharjeel Khan, Ahmad Shehzad and Muhammad Hafeez. Top order of Pakistan lacks technique to tackle new ball. On BD wickets they might be able to get some runs but in longer run not a good idea.

  • Unni on February 25, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    @Solid_Snake: The game is tomorrow not next year .Hope you will not runaway and hide after the match. India can send a second XI and beat Bangladesh and since they had a losing streak they are desperate to take it to some one and poor Bangladesh is gonna get it LOL

  • Android on February 25, 2014, 7:59 GMT

    Sri Lanka will win

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2014, 7:57 GMT

    @VKohli_theGreat : I agree, our Batsmen are average, in fact 6 months ago they were below average now they are a little better, but our bowling is the best in the world if you count on the depth of spinning with Rehman and Ajmal in Tests and Hafeez and Ajmal in ODI's. Junaid Khan and Mohammed Irfan are not as good as Steyn or Philander Ofcourse but they are still good bowlers...however our Batting is a lot better than Indian bowling. Statistically Indian bowlers concede more runs than any other team in the world, making them probably the worst bowling Unit.

  • Black on February 25, 2014, 7:55 GMT

    So , If Pakistan thrash srilanka today! we can confirm that the lankans were just survived from bangladesh.

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