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November 10, 2011
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has admitted that Lasith Malinga's arrival will add incisiveness to Sri Lanka's attack, but believes his side is ready for the challenge. Speaking ahead of the limited-overs leg of the UAE series, Misbah stressed on Pakistan's strong track record against Sri Lanka's unconventional yorker specialist.
"It creates a difference when Lasith Malinga's there because everybody knows he's a very good bowler, but we're ready for that," Misbah said. "We've played a lot of games against him and I think our guys have played him very well.
Malinga comes off a stunning run in Mumbai Indians' victorious Champions League T20 campaign, where he picked up ten wickets - all bowled and lbw - in addition to scoring crucial runs down the order. He is just one wicket away from 150 ODI wickets, and is poised to become the fastest Sri Lanka bowler to reach that landmark. Pakistan, however, have had a measure of success against him, losing only 10 wickets in nine prior outings, at an average of 47.66 each. Five of those wickets, though, came in a match-winning spell in the last outing between the two sides.
"It's an edge for them to have Lasith Malinga in the side, but if we look at our side we have Shahid Afridi and some other very good cricketers too," Misbah said. "Of course, it's a different ball game [after the Tests] but the guys who are coming back have played a lot of one-day cricket and they know what to do, so we're ready. Sri Lanka is a very good team but our team is ready to do well and we're just focusing on the one-day series now."
Afridi's return to the Pakistan side, after calling off his 'conditional' retirement under the Ijaz Butt regime, is the other subplot that has generated interest in the lead-up to the series. Afridi has said he wants to put his controversial exit behind him, and focus on contributing to the side. Abdul Razzaq also makes a comeback, adding firepower and bowling variety to the side.
Misbah also believes the conditions at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium - venue of the first three ODIs - will favour his side.
"The atmosphere, the stadium - it's really good to play here," he said. "Normally you feel the heat playing in the UAE but in this stadium in particular, the way it's built, it's really good for the players and you don't feel that heat. The atmosphere's really good with the way the stands are built, everybody loves to play here and it's a real plus point for our team."
Though Pakistan have the momentum following the Test series win, Sri Lanka coach Geoff Marsh believes his side are the favourites for the ODIs. World Cup finalists Sri Lanka are rated second on the ODI table, while Pakistan are sixth.
"We like to think we've got the edge but we've got to go out and prove that," Marsh said. "We believe we're a very good one-day side but once the game begins, then we've got to go out and play good one-day cricket. We know we've got to play really well to beat them."
Sri Lanka's preparation for the series has been marred by chairman of selectors Duleep Mendis' recent criticism of the players and support staff, but Marsh played down the issue.
"Of what he wrote on Cricinfo? I only read the first couple of lines, I didn't read the rest," Marsh said. "It's something that got written but I don't know about it.
"I'm really enjoying my job. The Sri Lanka players are a great bunch of lads and they all work really hard. They've set long and short-term goals and we are working towards reaching them."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge