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November 24, 2011
T20Is have been reduced to irrelevant one- or two-match series, shoe-horned at either end of long bilateral tours. The stakes are so low that teams don't take these games seriously. A part of the reason is the quirky scheduling of the World Twenty20. Initially planned as a biannual event that would lend context to the format, it made three London-bus appearances in four years, before hibernating out of our conscious. The next edition will be held in September 2012 in Sri Lanka, and teams will want to start drawing up plans now, after a year dominated by the World Cup and a clutch of marquee Test series.
Sri Lanka haven't looked like winning anything in the longer formats since the World Cup. Indeed, they have lost all their Test and ODI series since then. However, in that same period, they have been unbeaten in Twenty20s, and are in the middle of an impressive sequence of five successive wins. They will be desperate to extend that run and build momentum in the lead-up to the World Twenty at home, even as they seek succour from their reversals in the other formats.
Pakistan have always impressed in Twenty20s, a six-match losing run last year notwithstanding. They have won the World Twenty20 once, and made the final and the semi-finals on the other two occasions. Their fortunes next year will hinge on how the team responds to Misbah-ul-Haq's leadership. His safety-first method has been an unequivocal success in the Test and ODI versions, but it remains to be seen whether it will work in Twenty20s.
Watch out for …
At various points during the tour Tillakaratne Dilshan has looked tired, indignant, sad and frustrated. By the end of the ODI series, with his form and his side's fortunes in a seemingly terminal slump, his dominant expression seemed to suggest resignation. The chance to thrash it around in the shortest format should lift his spirits; on Friday, no one will question his shot-selection if he gets out playing those loose on-the-up heaves.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 2 Dinesh Chandimal, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Chamara Silva, 5 Dimuth Karunaratne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Dilruwan Perera/Kosala Kulasekara, 9 Thisara Perara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 10 Dilhara Fernando
Pakistan have 14 fit players in their squad, of which Abdur Rehman and Sarfraz Ahmed are almost sure to miss out.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Farhat/Asad Shafiq, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Umar Akmal (wk), 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Aizaz Cheema, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Saeed Ajmal
Stats and trivia
"He still has a lot of cricket in him and just needs one innings to get back in touch."
Misbah-ul-Haq backs Shoaib Malik to come good soon
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