Teams seek early boost before bigger tests
Match factsFriday, June 1, 2012
Start time 1900 (1330 GMT)
The Twenty20 series at the start of the tour is a good opportunity for the teams to try out players they'd have in their plans for the World Twenty20 later in the year, but just two games are unlikely to produce definitive answers. There are more elaborate preparations being made elsewhere for the competition; Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and South Africa will soon take part in an unofficial triangular Twenty20 series, Bangladesh have also asked Ireland to arrange for five Twenty20s in July, there is a Sri Lanka Premier League planned for August and several Indian and overseas regulars have already benefited from the IPL.
Mohammad Hafeez, the new Pakistan Twenty20 captain, called the IPL a "missed opportunity" for his players, who'll have to make do with these two games in Hambantota. The World Twenty20 is a few months away and the immediate aim is to gain an initial edge on a big tour which is Pakistan's biggest assignment since beating (in Tests and ODIs) Sri Lanka and England in 'home' conditions in the UAE.
At least seven Sri Lankan players in the current squad have had a chance to play the IPL this year, and their freshness from that experience will have prepared them well against Pakistan, who had a training camp in Lahore before this tour.
Form guide(most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWWWW
Players to watch
Shoaib Malik: He's not part of Pakistan's ODI squad for the series but if he gets a chance to play in the Twenty20s, he'll be under scrutiny. He's had a poor run in ODIs and mixed results in the shortest format since he came back to the national team; he's among the seniors but another failure could cost him.
Chamara Kapugedera: Sri Lanka persisted with him for a long time despite poor returns but he's not part of their ODI squad this time. He's been picked for the Twenty20s though, and has been in good form of late, with scores of 86 not out and 79 in his last four innings. A hard-hitting batsman down the order, Kapugedera has a chance to make a mark again for the national side, in the lead-up to the World Twenty20.
Pakistan played their last Twenty20 international in February this year and have made some changes to their squad. One of them is the inclusion of wicketkeeper-batsman Shakeel Ansar, who is expected to play. Umar Akmal had been assigned the keeping duties before this, and he could likely play as a full-time batsman. Mohammad Sami, who hasn't played for Pakistan since November 2010, is one to keep an eye on should he be included.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Umar Akmal, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Khalid Latif/Haris Sohail, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Shakeel Ansar (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir/ Hammad Azam, 9 Mohammad Sami, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Saeed Ajmal.
Sri Lanka have picked left-arm seamer Isuru Udana in their squad, a bowler known to deliver a well-disguised slow bouncer. They also have legspinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi in their ranks. Both don't feature in the ODI squad.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Dinesh Chandimal, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Kaushal Lokuarachchi, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Isuru Udana.
Stats and trivia
- Hambantota will be making its debut as an international Twenty20 venue, though it's hosted four ODIs before this. The results have been largely one-sided.
- Mahela Jayawardene is 47 short of reaching 1000 runs in Twenty20 internationals.
Quotes"We had a pretty decent two weeks camp before we came here, finishing up with some practices that were attended by conservatively 15,000 people who were starved of cricket and they just loved them."
Dav Whatmore, the Pakistan coach, on his team's preparation.
"What makes them competitive is the sort of bowling options available, apart from the specialists."
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo