Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st T20, Dubai December 10, 2013

Sri Lanka out to protect top ranking


Match facts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Start time 2000 local (1600 GMT)

Big Picture

During the last 14 months, Sri Lanka's Twenty20 matches have had a little more edge to them than most. They have been the top-ranked side since last year's World Twenty20, and with the next global tournament approaching, it is a psychological fillip the captain Dinesh Chandimal is intent on protecting. A 0-2 loss will result in losing the top spot to Pakistan; a 1-1 result will lead to a reduction of a ranking point but Sri Lanka will stay No. 1; and a 2-0 win will bolster their position.

Aside from the prospect of achieving the top rank, these two fixtures are important for Pakistan because they are their last scheduled matches before the World Twenty20 in March. There are key places in the top order and in the bowling attack that have not yet been firmed up, and the likes of batsmen Sohaib Maqsood and Sharjeel Khan, and seam-bowlers Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali, will relish the opportunity to push themselves into the side.

A victory in Cape Town after three straight losses to South Africa will have bred some confidence, but Pakistan's squad is light on experience. While promising youngsters will likely be trialled, there is uncertainty about whether this team is up to toppling a consummate Twenty20 side like Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka will conduct experiments of their own as they seek a spin-bowling allrounder for Bangladesh. Chandimal had recently said Ramith Rambukwella was among Sri Lanka's best Twenty20 spinners, and while Rambukwella's varied offbreaks were effective on debut, he did little to allay his notoriety as an average fielder. His major competition will be legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna, who is fresh from a 32-ball 84 not out in List A cricket.

Several Sri Lanka players have also spoken of the importance of beginning the tour well, given the paucity of international cricket in the recent past, but Pakistan appear to be carrying the most momentum into the first encounter.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka: WWLLW
Pakistan: WWLLL

In the spotlight

There is some thought that Sri Lanka's batsmen are weak against left-armers of both varieties, and if Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir and Zulfiqur Babar all play on Wednesday, as they did against Afghanistan, Sri Lanka will find out if there is an issue that requires addressing. Sri Lanka's batting unit has also had trouble adjusting to new bowlers in the past, and with plenty of young unknowns in Pakistan's squad, that is another theory the hosts can test.

Once the most feared limited-overs bowler in the world but lately an inconsistent performer, Lasith Malinga's spells have grown more expensive as his gut has grown more cumbersome. Malinga does not need to be hyper-fit to crush toes and send stumps careening, but given he has collected only four wickets in his last eight Twenty20s, a good series here might re-establish him as one of the format's premier stars.

Team news

Saeed Ajmal was rested against Afghanistan and he may replace Babar, who had an expensive last outing. Nasir Jamshed has been omitted from the Twenty20 squad, which means Sharjeel Khan is likely to partner Ahmed Shehzad at the top of the innings again.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Sharjeel Khan, 3 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 4 Sohaib Maqsood, 5 Umar Akmal (wk), 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Umar Amin, 8 Bilawal Bhatti/Zulfiqur Babar, 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan

Mahela Jayawardene remained at home for the limited-overs series, which means Kusal Perera is almost certain to open the innings alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan. Rambukwella may be preferred to Prasanna for the first match.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Ramith Rambukwella/Seekkuge Prasanna 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis

Stats and trivia

  • Malinga averages 40.50 per wicket in six Twenty20s in 2013, his worst yearly average. His economy rate remains good at 7.04.
  • Pakistan have only won one of the last six Twenty20s at Dubai International stadium


"We leaked quite a few runs against Afghanistan so we will have to be at our best to beat Sri Lanka and Ajmal's return will help that."
Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez

"We played really well in the last Twenty20 series. We're still No. 1 in the world. We've got two Twenty20s in this tour, so we've got an eye on the ranking."
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 12, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Chandimaal shud never be played in T20,and Thisara Parera shud be higher up..T20 is won by scoring,not by wickets i shud say...SL selection in T20 and ODI is so traditional..

  • Dummy on December 11, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    Pak will win T20 series will rank top because they are in much better form.

  • ESPN on December 11, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    Good luck Pakistan

  • Android on December 11, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    srilanka total runs 150+

  • Dummy4 on December 11, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    I have watched live Usman Khan in his last game where he indeed put down the SNGPL line up including Misbah. But I must say it is too early to call him for national side, specially against T20i good team SL. Remember, Pakistan has never been short of pacers!

  • Android on December 11, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    good luck Pakistan

  • Lakmal on December 11, 2013, 14:22 GMT

    @Sarah Khan: Pakistan is a dear brother to us..I don't mind if we lose the match.May the best team wins it.We are friends!

  • Lakmal on December 11, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    @warneneverchuck : This is a T20 match..Why are you talking about the tests?

  • Dummy4 on December 11, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    Excited for the series after the memorable win in South Africa ... Umar akmal bats more freely and naturally iin T20s mainly bcoz of the attacking captain and his batting no.4 in T20s compared to ODIs where he bats at no.6 (He is notjust a dasher but a proper batsman needs to bat at no. 4 in all forms of cricket). Sharjeel khan is another exciting player to watch. Haris sohail should play today as he is fresh from a 30 ball 60 in the final of the president T20 cup in Pakistan. Looking forward to watch the amazing and fantabulous Sangakara in this series, will miss Jaywardine ......

  • Madhusha on December 11, 2013, 13:40 GMT

    It's great to read Pak brothers comments..We also support Pakistan if it isn't playing against SL .. Wish both teams good luck..hope this will be an practice match to 2014 world t-20 final..(Pak 4 out of 2times final SL 4 out of 2 times final)Hope both teams will take good use of the matches.

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