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The Preview by Kanishkaa Balachandran
June 6, 2012
Thursday, June 7
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
The drawn Twenty20 series in Hambantota, in which there was little to separate the teams, has set up the five-ODI contest nicely. The pattern of both T20s was the same: the batsmen made just enough runs and the bowlers used the swing and seam available in the evenings to defend modest targets.
Sri Lanka will hope to improve the recent head-to-head record, having lost five of their last six ODIs to Pakistan. Four of those defeats were in the UAE in 2011, a tour in which Pakistan were superior across formats. Sri Lanka's batting had depended heavily on Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and the rest were unable to build on their sound foundations. Sri Lanka found stability late into their tour of South Africa, where they won two dead rubbers, and made the finals of the CB Series in Australia, at India's expense.
A big reason for Sri Lanka's revival was contributions from players like Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, who took the burden off the senior batsmen. The support cast grew in confidence and the allrounders provided good balance in foreign conditions. However, Sri Lanka ran out of steam during the third final of the CB series and arrived in Bangladesh for the Asia Cup looking jaded and lost all three games. Despite the heartening performance in Australia, Sri Lanka have a lot of catching up to do, having won only eight of their last 24 games. Their key players, who were part of the IPL, will also have to make the adjustment from Twenty20 cricket to the 50-over format.
Pakistan's recent form has been more impressive. After suffering a 4-0 loss against England in the UAE, they won the Asia Cup in a close final against Bangladesh. The ODI squad led by Misbah-ul-Haq is stronger than their experimental Twenty20 team as well, and it has been strengthened by Sohail Tanvir's retention. Tanvir impressed during his Twenty20 comeback and was chosen as a replacement once opening batsman Nasir Jamshed was injured. Pakistan are a batsman short, though, and could be stretched if Misbah and younis Khan fail. It will be up to the unpredictable Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi to step up.
Form guide(Most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLW
Watch out for...
Umar Gul had a poor opening Twenty20 in Hambantota, conceding 43 in four overs. He allowed Sri Lanka the crucial 30-odd runs at the end, when they were struggling to post a decent score. Gul was dropped for the second Twenty20 but Pakistan are unlikely to bench him for too long.
Thisara Perera kickstarted Sri Lanka's turnaround in South Africa with an unbeaten 69 off 44 balls in Kimberley to help chase 300. Perera has since formed a healthy partnership with fellow allrounder Angelo Mathews, giving Sri Lanka a balanced team. Jayawardene rates him highly for his ability to clear the boundary, and Perera showcased his skills in the first match Hambantota, striking 32 off 16 balls
With Jamshed not in the squad, Pakistan have Imran Farhat to partner Mohammad Hafeez at the top. Azhar Ali is another option for opener; he scored 58, against England, in his only innings in that position. Pakistan will have to decide if they want to pack their team with specialist bowlers, or go with an extra batsman in the middle order.
Pakistan (likely) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Farhat/Azhar Ali, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Umar Gul, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Sohail Tanvir/Mohammad Sami, 11 Aizaz Cheema
For Sri Lanka, Rangana Herath returns to the squad after a long rest but they may use him sparingly in the ODIs, given his heavy workload in the Tests. Jayawardene didn't rule out opening the innings with Dilshan.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Rangana Herath/Sachitra Senanayake, 11 Lasith Malinga
Stats and trivia
"That kind of record builds your confidence a little bit but it's a new series and different conditions. You have to perform again from the start."
Misbah-ul-Haq on Pakistan's recent record against Sri Lanka
"Pakistan's record against us speaks for itself; they have played much better cricket than us during the Asia Cup and even in the UAE. It's up to us to lift our game individually as well as a group."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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