Tussling teams chase consistency
Wednesday, June 13
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
After the Twenty20s in Hambantota and two ODIs in Pallekele, the series now shifts to Sri Lanka's third World Cup venue - the R Premadasa Stadium. It's hard to predict how the third ODI will pan out: almost nothing seemed to go Sri Lanka's way in the first one-dayer when they limped to 135 for 8, but two days later, and on the same pitch, their batting was back to near its best and they piled up a match-winning score.
One thing that didn't change for Pakistan over the two matches was the abysmal fielding. Catches were generously put down in the first ODI and a number of run-out opportunities were spurned in the second. While Pakistan were largely unpunished by the mistakes in the field in the first game, Tillakaratne Dilshan made the most of his reprieve in the second game, going on to make an unbeaten century.
After Dilshan pushed Sri Lanka to a big total, the lack of depth in Pakistan's batting was shown up. Younis Khan has been out of sorts in recent matches, and the unpredictable Shahid Afridi comes in at No. 6 - one position higher than his usual slot in recent years - putting plenty of pressure on the remaining four batsmen. Sarfraz Ahmed played a crucial hand in the Asia Cup final, but is yet to convince as a long-term No. 7. In the absence of allrounders such as Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik, Pakistan may consider playing an extra batsman in an attempt to shorten the tail.
For Sri Lanka, the thinktank will be pleased Dilshan shrugged off a run of low scores. One difference from his century on Saturday to previous recent innings was that he took his time early on to gauge the conditions, instead of going on an all-out assault right from the start. The decision to shift Mahela Jayawardene down the order also worked as he struck an innovative half-century to pilot Sri Lanka's late charge.
The one thing the home board will be worried about is that heavy rain is predicted for Wednesday afternoon and evening in Colombo.
Pakistan LWWLW (Most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLLL
Watch out for...Azhar Ali has often been pegged as a Test specialist given his leisurely rate of scoring (slowest in Tests among all current cricketers with more than 1000 runs), but showed in the second ODI that he could adjust to the demands of the limited-over formats. Thrust in as an opener, he scored at a run-a-ball early on.
Kumar Sangakkara is the second-highest run-getter in ODIs this year, but hasn't been at his best in this series, and was off-colour during the IPL as well. Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, though, wasn't concerned about the lack of runs. "I don't worry about Kumar's form for a second," he said. "He's a kind of batsman who needs to spend just half an hour in the middle and you will see what difference he makes."
Team newsPakistan are still waiting on the fitness of fast bowler Mohammad Sami, who is recovering from a thumb injury but not yet 100%. If he is deemed fit, he will take the place of he listless Rahat Ali. Shahid Afridi was down with a stomach bug, but is expected to recover in time to play.
Pakistan (likely) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Azhar Ali, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Sami/Rahat Ali
Sri Lanka have already made one change to their squad, bringing in 34-year-old left-arm-spinner Sajeewa Weerakoon in place of Rangana Herath, who has been rested ahead of the Tests. They have to decide which of the three spinners in the squad to pick: Weerakoon, Jeevan Mendis or Sachithra Senanayake.
Sri Lanka (likely) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Upul Tharanga, 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Sachithra Senanayake, 11 Lasith Malinga
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have won eight of their previous nine ODIs at the R Premadasa stadium.
- Left-arm spinner Weerakoon, who is yet to make his international debut, has 693 first-class wickets
- Dinesh Chandimal averages 15.50 in his eight ODI innings against Pakistan, but averages 45.04 in 29 ODIs against other opposition
Quotes"Our fielding has been an on and off problem for us for a long time now. We have not been consistent in this department. In the last few days everybody has been practicing hard on their fielding."
Misbah-ul-Haq knows one area where Pakistan need some serious improvement
"I think I have done enough to convince them that I deserve a place in the Sri Lanka team."
Sajeewa Weerakoon doesn't mince words
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo