Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, Cardiff June 11, 2017

Hot-and-cold teams tussle for final semi-final spot

291

Match Facts

June 12, 2017
Start time 10.30am local (0930 GMT)

Big Picture

And so, it has transpired that two fundamentally flawed sides - seventh and eighth on the ODI rankings - now have the chance to scramble over the other into the semi-final of the most competitive one-day tournament around.

How this came about deserves a brief recap. Pakistan, who barely strung together five overs of competence against India, choked South Africa's top order with spin, before the quicks came back to wipe out the middle order with reverse swing. The next day, Sri Lanka, who had been swatted away like a gnat by South Africa, ran down India's 321 for 6 with ease - Angelo Mathews so cool in the final overs, he practically had a cigar between his lips, and a drink in one hand.

Even just two games in, both teams have put together such colourful campaigns. Sri Lanka's old warhorse, Lasith Malinga, has been sporadically effective with the ball, but has been more entertaining in the field, where his slow-motion dives have brought to mind the keeling over of a ship. If you squint, you can just about see seismic ripples in the turf. Elsewhere, Sri Lanka have attempted singles advisable only on low-gravity planets, have committed batting hara-kiri against high-quality wrist spin, and players have strived en masse to rule themselves out of this game - Chamara Kapugedara, Kusal Perera and Upul Tharanga already unavailable, before a blow to Thisara Perera's head at training also put him in doubt, though, thankfully, he appears to be fine now.

Pakistan, meanwhile, had lost Umar Akmal to fitness concerns a week before the tournament, have seen ace bowler Mohammad Amir go wicketless in both matches, while other bowlers in the attack lurched from abysmal to dominant in the space of three days. Sarfraz Ahmed's new captaincy has also been eventful. Mohammad Hafeez delivered ten overs and contributed the vital wicket of Quinton de Kock in Pakistan's win over South Africa, but had not been bowled at all in the previous match, prompting much head-scratching, not least from Pakistan's own coach.

Look, these previews are often an occasion for considered analysis; a platform for weighing up relative strengths, and figuring out which side has the upper hand. But is there really a point with these two teams? When they play as they have, they are impervious to any kind of meaningful dissection. There is so little consistency from one game to the next, the whole exercise loses its value.

And a Sri Lanka v Pakistan knockout has so much tragicomic potential that to discuss it beforehand is like giving out spoilers. This preview may already have said too much.

Form guide


Sri Lanka WLWLL (completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan WLWWL

In the spotlight

Babar Azam, one of the brightest young batting talents on the planet, has five hundreds and six fifties in 28 innings, a rocking average of 54.44, and - crucially for a Pakistan batsman of the last two years - a 21st-century strike rate of 89. He had just been warming up when the rains came down in Birmingham - his last stroke having been a regal on-drive off Kagiso Rabada. Having had a modest tour of England last year, Babar will be eager to cross fifty for the first time on English soil, and Sri Lanka's limited attack may be the opposition to do it against.

Also in possession of a potentially devastating payload of talent is another 22-year-old, Kusal Mendis, whose crinkle-free 89 on Thursday helped set Sri Lanka on track to victory. There are still flaws in his game - Pakistan might be wise to pack their slip cordon early in his innings, for example. But 26 innings in, there is a scientific composure to his game that has been the cause of quiet excitement for Sri Lanka fans. Only Joe Root has hit more ODI fifties than Mendis' 11, since the latter's debut almost a year ago.

Kusal Perera's hamstring injury may mean a straight entry into the XI for Dhananjaya de Silva © Associated Press

Team news

Kusal Perera's exit from the tournament due to a hamstring injury means Sri Lanka's batting will be in flux again. They have flown in Dhananjaya de Silva and, given Tharanga remains suspended for another match, de Silva may have to walk straight into the middle order. There is a chance Sri Lanka will play Lakshan Sandakan instead of Thisara Perera, but the selectors have generally been conservative, so Thisara could stay. De Silva and Gunathilaka both provide offspin options.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Dhananjaya de Silva, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

There is a chance of fast-bowling allrounder Faheem Ashraf debuting, in place of Mohammad Hafeez. However, Pakistan will perhaps be unwilling to mess with a winning combination.

Pakistan (possible): 1 Azhar Ali, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Mohammad Amir, 9 Shadab Khan, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Junaid Khan

Pitch and conditions

The weather is forecast to be cloudy but dry, with temperatures around the mid-teens. A fresh pitch is being used for this match. Scores of 280-300 have seemed about par in the two matches played in Cardiff so far.

Stats and trivia

  • The last time these two teams met in an ODI outside Asia was back in 2002. Of their ten most recent encounters - each of which has been in Asia - Sri Lanka have won six.

  • Angelo Mathews, who hit 52 not out against India, has averaged an outstanding 50.08 since the start of 2014, with a strike rate of nearly 88

  • Since his debut in August last year, Hasan Ali has taken 33 wickets at an average of 25.9 and strike rate of just under 27 - better, by a distance, than any of his team-mates to have played more than one match during that period

Quotes

"We are not trying to get too far ahead. We just want to take one game at a time. We're not thinking about the semi-final as of now. We're just taking on Pakistan tomorrow. We've got to play really good cricket to beat them, and we all know that they're a very dangerous team."
Angelo Mathews

"I think it's an achievement. Everyone wanted to do well in this competition. I believe, and we believe as a team, we are moving towards the right direction. We know as a team we are gelling together."
Mohammad Hafeez on what reaching a semi-final would mean

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Piwithuru Sannasgala on June 12, 2017, 13:42 GMT

    We badly missed opener Upul Tharanga at the top to make a match out of this with another sparkling first wkt stand with Dickwella to set a decent target on this challenging deck that came across for the first time in this CT series ! We got really lucky to win the toss to chase in last one on the least difficult wicket in this CT seen so far. As usual all SL batters flourished on that dead strip misserably failed again on a lively deck failing to make any impact on that superb Dickwella inning. Similar to the match vs SA where UT's superb effort limiting SA to 299 and trying to win that match with a superb 57 was wasted by 5 brittle batters failed to contribute 96 runs collectively, If not SL would have won that first match vs SA and already in the Semis!

  • cricfan63544302 on June 12, 2017, 12:37 GMT

    lol. high classic match Pak vs sl....it must be Sl to win the semi spot

  • HectorHales on June 12, 2017, 10:27 GMT

    Good to see BD fans so upbeat. In fact they deserve to be ecstatic after their classico last week. What a chase !! But it is better to be realistic and cautious. Hope is nice, but blind hope is heart breaking. Anybody can win the match on Thursday, but don't prepare yourself to be devastated. However, your tears show how passionate you are. But please, if you lose take it sportingly.

  • Oldtimer01 on June 12, 2017, 9:39 GMT

    Who cares who wins. Be it Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India, at the end of the day, it is Bangladesh who will win the title. Bangladesh has been the best team in the sub continent for a couple of years now and have shown that they are the best in the world.

  •   cricfan8749147510 on June 12, 2017, 9:33 GMT

    Whole stadium is empty. Where are the supporters for Pakistan who claim to be die hard supporters.

  • Sal12345 on June 12, 2017, 9:32 GMT

    It is SL vs Pak. But fans of Ban are too much verbal about themselves and their match. Pls stop this over ambitious thinking and enjoy the cricket of two equally matched teams. The match is set. Pak chose to bowl which means they have to stop SL below 270. Anything more than that is a rarity for Pak to chase it. On the other hand, SL needs to calm themselves for 25 overs with 4.5 run rate and then accelerate with the finest as possible. ATB neighbors!!

  • picklefarmer on June 12, 2017, 9:28 GMT

    Pak team can win if they keep calm and focus on their strengths....their batting is not that bàd as it looks like..they just need some mental toughness..... Good luck from india

  • arj_spk on June 12, 2017, 9:24 GMT

    @IRFAN.SRINAGAR.KASHMIR on June 12, 2017, 8:56 GMT . It is impossible to cross NRR for both the teams, because IND is far ahead in the run rate the winner of today's match have to face ENG in the semifinal.

  • cricfan80173190 on June 12, 2017, 9:23 GMT

    Still 1 player is playing from SL side... Azhar Ali

  • cricfan1751922776 on June 12, 2017, 9:22 GMT

    Sri Lanka 274/8 wickets in 50 Overs Kusal Mendis 46 Mathews 58 Thisara Perera 44 Pakistan 253 all out in 48.5 Overs Hafeez 40 Shafraz 69

  • No featured comments at the moment.