Timely revival hands SL the edge
Match factsSaturday, January 24
Start time 11.30 am (06.30 GMT)
The Big Picture
Sri Lanka's resounding victory in the second ODI in Karachi showed all the indications of their commitment to improve on the areas in which they faltered the day before, when they lost by eight wickets. Their middle order built on a good start provided by the openers, putting behind them the collapse in the first match, and their spinners ensured a comprehensive win - they took seven of the ten wickets - after the Pakistan batsmen had negotiated them well in the series opener. A successful remedy of their batting concerns - Thilina Kandamby's inclusion in place of Jehan Mubarak worked wonders - and restoration of their spinners' dominance amid a sorry capitulation by the Pakistan batsmen gives Sri Lanka the edge going into the series decider.
The hosts, though, have more to gain from a series win: it will represent a welcome conclusion to the first international series in Pakistan during what has been a tumultuous few months, help generate revenue for a cash-strapped board and bring back more fans to the grounds after lower-than-expected turnouts for the first two games.
However, they have more reasons to worry. Only three Pakistan batsmen reached double figures in their 129-run defeat, and while Salman Butt was fluent with Shoaib Malik scoring freely at the other end, the way the rest surrendered augurs badly for the decider. Moreover, the form of their new-ball pair is a major worry: Shoaib Akhtar bowled just six overs for 45 at below-par speeds in the previous match and has drawn criticism from his own captain, while Sohail Tanvir has gone for around seven runs per over in both ODIs.
ODI form guide (most recent first)Pakistan LWWWW
Sri Lanka WLWLW
Watch out for ...
Mahela Jayawardene has had a torrid run in ODIs, managing just 100 runs in his last 11 innings at 9.09. However, he looked confident during his brief innings of 24 in the second ODI and will hope to reverse his fortunes with a significant contribution in the decider.
Iftikhar Anjum and Umar Gul have delivered when their fast-bowling partners, Akhtar and Tanvir, have failed. Iftikhar has bagged five wickets in the series, Gul has six, and Pakistan - after two brisk starts by the Sri Lankan openers - may rely on both to restrain the top order and bowl tightly at the death.
For Pakistan, it is unlikely Shoaib will play. Amid criticism from various quarters regarding his fitness and commitment, his place in the side appears tenuous. Fast bowler Sohail Khan, who's only played three ODIs, could be a replacement option.
Pakistan: Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik (capt), Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Sohail Tanvir, Iftikhar Anjum, Umar Gul, Sohail Khan
Sri Lanka will look to retain a winning combination, and with Kandamby cementing his place for the decider with an impressive half-century, his inclusion at the expense of Mubarak was made at the right time.
Sri Lanka: Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Kapugedera, Thilan Thushara, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Kulasekara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis
Pitch and conditions
In the last ten ODIs played in Lahore, the side winning the toss has opted to bat on seven occasions and won each time. One could expect a typical batting track, though the overcast weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon could tempt the captains to take advantage of favourable bowling conditions early on.
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have a good overall record at the Gaddafi stadium, winning 29 and losing 17 ODIs. Their performance since 2004, though, has been mixed with six wins - two against Bangladesh - and seven losses.
- Muttiah Muralitharan, who has taken 498 wickets, needs a five-for to go past Wasim Akram - the highest wicket-taker in ODIs with 502. Eighty-six of those 498 have come against Pakistan at an average of 25.17.
- Since 2004, Pakistan have averaged 34.04 runs-per-wicket in 21 ODIs at the Gaddafi stadium while Sri Lanka have done better, scoring 39.58 per dismissal.
"We let the lead slip in the second match, so it's now a must-win situation in the final game. I hope the players realise that and do not repeat the mistakes of the second match."
Shoaib Malik calls for improvement after a slip-up in Karachi
"We didn't repeat our mistakes of the first match and the guys showed a lot of character, so it's necessary we continue that. Lahore will be a new ground and we will assess the situation and hope to execute our plans."
Mahela Jayawardene is confident ahead of the series decider
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo