SL, Pakistan look to mend batting chinks in dead rubber
March 4, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1330 GMT)
With tails between their legs, two of the better nations in T20 history prepare to play out a dead rubber, two years after they had contested the final of this tournament. Their routes to this match were similar enough. Both teams had more trouble defeating the UAE than expected. They were each floored by a clinical Bangladesh side, and were comfortably bested by India, despite a few heartening performances in those games.
They are also ailed by roughly similar concerns. The openers are a worry for Pakistan - none having hit more than 11 in the tournament. Sri Lanka have begun to fear that Tillakaratne Dilshan's form may not recover over the next few weeks, and his partner - Dinesh Chandimal - is an improvised opener in any case. Pakistan have a few bright sparks in that top order - which features Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik - but against the top teams, they have only come good one-by-one, rather than as a collective.
In Mohammad Amir at least, this game will feature the bowler that has delivered the best spells in the tournament. In Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara and Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka have the most experienced attack. Both teams will look to their bowlers to set the standard, as the batsmen attempt to sort themselves out.
Pakistan: LWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LLWLL
Watch out for
Nuwan Kulasekara has had an up-and-down tournament, having made key breakthroughs against India and UAE, though he proved expensive against Bangladesh. He has said goodbye to his inswing over the past year. This is like if Coke stopped making its cola. Kulasekara has found the means to make profits off his supplementary products though, finding outside edges with the ball that straightens on the deck, and bowling cheap overs at the death. If he can take early wickets again in this match, he will go into the World T20 with some confidence, inswing or not.
With team-mates sinking around him, Sarfraz Ahmed tried to salvage something out of Pakistan's innings against Bangladesh, on Wednesday. Batting unusually high in the order, Sarfraz scored 58 not out off 42 balls. Though coaches have not always been willing to let Sarfraz come in early, his limited-overs statistics do suggest he is of more use to Pakistan in the top five, than lower down. As Pakistan attempt to lock down their batting roles for the World T20, another success higher in the order might guarantee Sarfraz a place there.
Coach Waqar Younis said Pakistan were likely to test their bench strength in this match. Allrounder Imad Wasim and bowlers Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Nawaz have a chance of playing. There is a chance Shahid Afridi could be rested.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Khurram Manzoor, 3 Sharjeel Khan, 4 Sarfraz Ahmed, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Imad Wasim/ Shahid Afridi (capt.), 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Mohammad Nawaz, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Sri Lanka know what they will get from Rangana Herath, so they may take the chance to give legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay a run. As this match is a dead rubber, they are unlikely to risk Lasith Malinga's knee.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dinesh Chandimal, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Shehan Jayasuriya, 4 Chamara Kapugedara, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Rangana Herath/Jeffrey Vandersay, 11 Dushmantha Chameera
Pitch and conditions
The weather is expected to be good for this match and, given the teams, another low-scoring game is on the cards.
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka lost 0-2 to Pakistan in the teams' most recent T20 series, in Sri Lanka last year.
- Sarfraz Ahmed averages 59 when batting in the top five, from five innings there so far. His overall average is 29 after 11 innings.
"If you are 34 for 4 after ten overs, you can't win a match. Our bowling has bailed us out on a few occasions, but if we bat like this, we can't win. Both our openers are making comebacks, so they are under pressure, and the pitches have been tough. If we had adapted well to these conditions, it would have been good, because the pitches in India should be better for batsmen."
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood talks through some of Pakistan's batting woes.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando