First test of Pakistan's unity
Match FactsTuesday, June 15, 2010
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
Pakistan cricket is in the spotlight, once again. Having endured a period of internal upheaval, they have zeroed in on a squad full of surprises. One former captain retired, while two others appealed successfully against their bans. One of those two - Shoaib Malik - returned to the side and will be playing under a new leader, Shahid Afridi, who not very long ago accused Malik of back-biting. Out of nowhere, the once spectacular Shoaib Akhtar was recalled. Even faithful fans struggle to keep track of the changes, while critics question the madness surrounding the method. But one thing everyone will acknowledge is that the selectors have hit upon a reasonably balanced ODI outfit.
Pakistan have traditionally under-performed at the Asia Cup, winning just one tournament, and their recent one-day record is miserable, but they have managed to lift their game in recent multi-team events. Admittedly, three of those four have been in the Twenty20 format, and there-in lies the danger Pakistan poses - both to their opponents and to themselves. They have the ability to go all the way with short and sharp bursts of inspiration, but are just as likely to combust.
Sri Lanka's selectors, on the other hand, have shown creativity and foresight, while their core group for the 2011 World Cup is set in stone. Sanath Jayasuriya and Ajantha Mendis were the heroes of their 2008 Asia Cup triumph, but both of them miss out this time, for differing reasons. Jayasuriya's form has finally taken precedence over reputation, while Mendis' exclusion is to enhance his biggest weapon - his mystery. Tillakaratne Dilshan, who could not buy a run in the World Twenty20, was sent to Zimbabwe to regain touch, which he accomplished in style. Farveez Maharoof has been included in the squad for his past exploits on the seaming Dambulla wicket. There are several names such as Thilina Kandamby, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Kapugedera competing for middle-order slots. Add the pedigree of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan to the mix and Sri Lanka will take some beating.
Form guide (most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLWWL
Watch out for...
Ever since he began opening during the IPL, Mahela Jayawardene has been in sublime form in the Twenty20 format. He is expected to return to the middle order for ODIs, but for a batsman with his range it should be an easy transition. He is the most prolific run-getter on this ground, followed by his captain Kumar Sangakkara, and their middle-over association could dictate the course of the game.
Umar Akmal has quickly grown within the Pakistan establishment and, in the absence of Misbah-ul-Haq, will be expected to play responsibly in the middle order. So far, the biggest threat to Umar's performance has been his impulsiveness, and it will be interesting to see if he can temper his natural aggression for the team's cause.
Pakistan are expected to give 20-year old left-hand batsman Umar Amin a debut. Shahid Afridi will mull the option of playing three quicks, with Shoaib Akhtar returning alongside Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer. It remains to be seen if Shoaib can bowl his full quota of ten overs, and Pakistan have hinted they will use him in short bursts.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Umar Amin, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Abdul Razzaq, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Shoaib Akhtar/Abdur Rehman, 11 Mohammad Asif, 12 Mohammad Aamer
Rangana Herath got a surprise call-up as the third spinner, but he is unlikely to get a look-in given Suraj Randiv's recent exploits. On form, Nuwan Kulasekara deserves to play, which could delay Maharoof's comeback unless the selectors decide to leave Lasith Malinga out.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk) 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Thilan Samaraweera, 7 Thilina Kandamby/Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara 9 Farveez Maharoof/Lasith Malinga 10 Suraj Randiv, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan..
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have played eight games in Dambulla and lost six of them; four of those defeats came in five games against the hosts. Sri Lanka have won 17 of their 24 games at this venue.
- Muttiah Muralitharan relishes bowling here, with 39 wickets in 18 games at an average of 16.87 and an economy rate of 3.73.
Quotes"Akhtar is an influential player. The type of effort he's putting in, hope he'll prove a point."
Shahid Afridi backs Shoaib Akhtar to be a force.
"I think it is a timely and great decision to have someone with that experience on the panel of people that has to decide on the future as well as the present."
Kumar Sangakkara on the new selection committee headed by Aravinda de Silva.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.