Powerplays in focus as ODIs return to Sharjah
Sunday, November 20
Start time 1500 (1100 GMT)
The batting Powerplay played its role in adding to the excitement of the World Cup, often tripping up a batting side coasting towards a large score or jumpstarting a flagging chase. The rules have been tweaked since and though the Powerplay is now taken earlier, it continues to add an element of unpredictability to the game, and was pivotal to the results of the previous two one-dayers between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka were reasonably well placed in their chase on Friday when they opted for the Powerplay. Cue 19 runs in five overs, the wickets of both their set batsmen and an arduous challenge that proved too much for the tail. It was similarly poisonous for Pakistan in the second ODI - 26 runs, three wickets and a chase that was virtually over. In what is a must-win game for Sri Lanka - Pakistan lead the five-match series 2-1 - how both teams handle the batting Powerplay could be crucial.
Teams are yet to properly re-calibrate their approach during the later set of fielding restrictions. Previously they targeted about 50 runs in that five-over spell, while now they need to tone down their ambitions, given that a big chunk of the innings still remains after that Powerplay. Mahela Jayawardene has already predicted how the two new balls will lead to lower totals, suggesting that 250 could be the new par score.
A par score of 250 seems like a throwback to the 1990s, a feeling that is only emphasised by Sunday's game being played in Sharjah. This signals the return of top-tier one-day cricket to the venue that was the hotbed of ODIs during 90s. Sharjah Cricket Ground is the runaway leader in terms of number of one-days hosted, but it's been eight years since two major teams contested a 50-over match there.
Pakistan: WLWWW (most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWLWL
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Imran Farhat's place has been under scrutiny for much of his international career but he has finally begun to put together a string of performances that could satisfy the critics. Three half-centuries in five ODI-innings is a start, but he still needs to improve his conversion-rate.
It's been an up-and-down year for Upul Tharanga. There was the high of scoring loads of runs during Sri Lanka's run to the World Cup final, followed by the low of a three-month drug ban. Tharanga may not attract the headlines as much as the current Sri Lanka captain and his two predecessors, but he has quietly accumulated 12 one-day centuries, the third-highest by a Sri Lanka batsman.
Most of Pakistan's XI picks itself. The only question is over which fast bowler will partner Umar Gul with the new balls. Aizaz Cheema got a look-in for the first two games before being replaced by Sohail Tanvir. After Tanvir's lacklustre effort on Friday, Junaid Khan could well be in line for a place.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Farhat, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Abdul Razzaq, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Sohail Tanvir/Junaid Khan.
Dilhara Fernando didn't have the best of games on Friday. With Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera also being right-arm quicks, Sri Lanka may be tempted to add variety to the attack through the change of angle Chanaka Welegedara provides.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Mahela Jayawardene, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Seekkuge Prasanna, 11 Dilhara Fernando/Chanaka Welegedara.
Stats and trivia
- Of the major Test nations, only Sri Lanka don't have any batsman with an ODI average above 40.00. Kumar Sangakkara, with 37.77, has the highest one-day average for a Sri Lankan
- Pakistan's biggest ODI victory over Sri Lanka, and second biggest overall, came in Sharjah, when they won by 217 runs in 2002
"It wasn't easy early on in the previous match. The ball wasn't coming onto the bat, but spending more time in the middle just gave us a bit more confidence."
Mohammad Hafeez had a reputation for making attractive 30s before giving it away. Friday's patient 83 showed showed how much progress he has made
"We have to get used to it. I don't think 300 and 350 runs are [now needed for] winning. Now 250 runs can be [enough for] a winnable target, with two new balls."
Tillakaratne Dilshan on the impact on using a new ball from each end
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo