Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Dambulla August 29, 2014

Ajmal return buoys Pakistan in series decider


Match facts

Saturday, August 30, 2014
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)

Big picture

A gap of three days between games can sometimes be a luxury in the manic schedule of an international cricketer. For Pakistan, the break and the ensuing change of scenery as the series shifts to Dambulla, is a chance to process the implosion in Hambantota. Their collapse gave Sri Lanka another shot at remedying an average record of ODI series wins at home.

For Pakistan, the series so far has been a tale of two chases, similar in their setting but vastly different in outcome - the first, conjured from thin air by Fawad Alam and Sohaib Maqsood, the second blown up in smoke by Sri Lanka's spinners on a helpful track.

But the second ODI in Hambantota wasn't just about the batting collapse. The Saeed Ajmal-sized hole in the Pakistan line-up could not be filled by the bowlers, especially towards the end of Sri Lanka's innings and Misbah-ul-Haq will know that the game slipped away from the side over the course of a mere 18 overs with the bat and in the field. While Sri Lanka were batting, Pakistan gave away 101 runs in the final ten overs and during their chase, went from 192 for 4 to 233 all out in just eight overs.

Pakistan, however, will be boosted by the return of Ajmal after his bowling action was tested in Brisbane, and may drop a fast bowler to accommodate him. However, it is the need to find consistency in the batting line-up that will be Pakistan's biggest challenge.

Despite having levelled the series, Sri Lanka have their own set of glaring problems. The failures of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga - who have stands of 18 and 14 - have been masked by the fluency Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews' remarkable form in the middle order. Lasith Malinga's yorkers haven't been as effective as they usually are and Nuwan Kulasekara, although marginally economical than Malinga, is still wicketless.

Form guide

Sri Lanka WLLWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan LWLWW

In the spotlight

The lack of form of the fast-bowling attack has been one of the biggest concerns for Sri Lanka in this series. Kulasekara (6.15 runs per over) and Malinga (7.32) have been expensive so far in the series and the pair have just three wickets between them. Kulasekara has not picked up a wicket in seven matches since May 2014. Sri Lanka's spinners, who now carry the chunk of the responsibility, have been given some relief by Mathews and Thisara Perera but the fast bowlers will still need to step up.

Saeed Ajmal has spent most of the last week getting his action tested in Brisbane. That he will play on Saturday is almost certain, especially after Misbah-ul-Haq's statement that the side had missed the bowler on the turning track at Hambantota, especially in the Powerplays and towards the end of the innings. There will be added scrutiny on his action and on how he has coped with the doubts over his game. Ajmal was last reported for a suspect action in April 2009 in the middle of an ODI series with Australia in the UAE. While he was cleared a month later, the bowler kept up his miserly form for the rest of the matches, with figures of 0 for 42 (in nine overs), 0 for 20 and 1 for 40 (10 overs).

Team news

Sri Lanka are likely to stick with their misfiring opening combination and may field the same XI from Hambantota.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Ashan Priyanjan 7 Seekkuge Prasanna, 8 Thisara Perara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Rangana Herath/Suraj Randiv

With Ajmal returning to the side, Pakistan may opt to drop either Junaid Khan or Mohammad Irfan. Sharjeel Khan, who replaced Younis Khan in the batting line-up, is likely to keep his place.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Sharjeel Khan 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Umar Akmal (wk), 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Fawad Alam, 7 Sohaib Maqsood, 8 Shahid Afridi, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Irfan/Junaid Khan

Pitch and conditions

Rain is unlikely to be a concern in Dambulla and the teams will instead have to get their estimate of the pitch correct. There has been just one ODI at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium in the last two years in which teams scored 211 and 126 in a rain-hit match. Shahid Afridi will have fond memories of this ground, however, after his 60-ball 124 against Bangladesh helped Pakistan to a 139-run win in the Asia Cup 2010.

Stats and trivia

  • The two captains, Angelo Mathews and Misbah-ul-Haq, find themselves on a unique list of batsmen with most runs in ODI cricket without a century. While Misbah has scored 37 ODI fifties and 4576 runs in 148 matches, Mathews has 22 fifties and 3013 runs in 132 games.

  • Dambulla was also the venue for the most successful chase in Sri Lanka, between the two teams in August 2009.

  • Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan have had an ordinary series so far, giving away plenty of runs without too many wickets. In two games, Junaid Khan has conceded 139 runs in 17 overs at an economy rate of 8.17 and just one wicket. Mohammad Irfan has two wickets but has given away 113 runs in two games at a rate of 5.94


"We know that Ajmal is a good bowler and that he's going to strengthen their bowling even more. But we know that he's a good bowler and we've played him well in the recent past. We'll look to play him positively and try to score runs against him."
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews on the reasons behind the failures of his fast bowlers

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Masood on August 30, 2014, 3:24 GMT

    pak shouldn't drop sharjeel, open him with shehzad & irfan should be replaced by ajmal

  • Shameera on August 30, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    In last 5 ODIs in Sri Lanka, teams who won the toss have won the matches. So the toss might be a deciding factor in this match

  • Tharindu on August 30, 2014, 3:00 GMT

    Best team to win WC 2015 for Sri Lanka:(same team of CB series in AUS 2012) 1.Mahela 2.Dilshan 3.Sanga 4.Chandimal(wk) 5.Thirimanna/Priyanjan 6.Matthews(c) 7.Tharanga 8.Thisara 9.Kulasekara 10.Malinga 11.Rangana/Sachithra/prasanna

    This team contains 7 batsmen in the lineup.It is very good to chase big targets in Aus/NZ conditions.We can use Mahela instead of kusal.Kusal is weak in opening in the fast traks.It has 4 fast bowlers,3 spinners.Let sanga to play as pure batsman.Mahela is very good at opening in the fast tracks.Let chandimal to bat@4 or higher or drop him without distroying his confidence.If we play this team surely the world Champs 2015 are sri Lankans.This team contains enough fire power.Tharanga is very good at lower middle order rather than opening.Priyanjan or thirimanna must be chosen depending on condition.kusal can join the team after the world cup.

  • Dummy4 on August 30, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    Pak fast bowlers should bowl yorkers at the death ad save runs how pak fast bowlers cant bowl yorkers surprised !!

  • Dummy4 on August 30, 2014, 2:51 GMT

    good but fast bowlers should learn to bowl yorkers waqar should teach them

  • Dummy4 on August 30, 2014, 2:40 GMT

    at least now srilanka cricket board should know about what is the weakness of our srilankan team.stability of the batting order and lacking of deck-hard pitching my point of view tharanga should be play as a middle order batsmen with his experience like he did in Australia couple years back.he did it great there.but today's game i prefer XI this: 1.tharanga 2.Dilshan 3.Sanga 4.Mahela 5.Mathews 6.priyanjan 7.thisara 8.seekuge 9.Prasad 10.herath 11.malinga

    for upcoming series i prefer XI this: 1.Kusal 2.Dilshan 3.sanga 4.MJ 5.Mathews 6.Tharanga 7.priyanjan 8.thisara 9.kule or prasad 10.herath 11.malinga

  • ESPN on August 30, 2014, 1:02 GMT

    Im always worried that m.irfan will get injured again before the wc, but he needs game time aswell so...

  • Rizwan1970 on August 29, 2014, 23:57 GMT

    Both openers in Srilanka team should take more responsibility and play a long inning. Tharanga dose not have qualities a middle order batsmen should have those are ability to quickly settle in, match situation awareness and ability to power hitting. If he failed to deliver as opener, as he did in previous Australian tower SriLanka better look for another opening batsmen. I am hoping better show from fast bowlers this time who ever the playing as fast bowlers there bowling form is prime impotent in world cup.

  • Android on August 29, 2014, 22:20 GMT

    I've seen some unnecessary changes suggested by some of the fellows.... Wahab cannot be made sit out with current wicket taking form plus he is someone with genuine pace and u need bowlers like him in a place like Srilanka to get wickets. Pakistan had Srilanka on the ropes till the 40th over in both the matches. They gave away too many runs in the depth. Even though I would like to see Anwer Ali to be in the team but playing him in this decider would be a risk. Pakistani fast bowlers seem good.they just have to change their lengths in the final overs and keep it full. Shuffling batting order won't help much middle order can't be made to open the the only realistic change I see is Ajmal replacing Sharjeel.

  • joel on August 29, 2014, 21:49 GMT

    Ajmal cant play as freely as he once did, with the fear of increased scrutiny hanging over his head. He should have not played until he has had feedback from the testing facility. I still think he can spin the ball, but with the eyes of the world on him, he will not take risk to put extra revs on the ball, and that will draw his sting.

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