Sri Lanka dogged by bowling worries
Wednesday, July 15
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
For so long the owners of one of most unique attacks in limited-overs cricket, Sri Lanka's bowling has clearly fallen away. Nuwan Kulasekara has declined so swiftly that 15 months after helping win a World T20, he no longer finds a place in the squad. Sachithra Senanayake's remodelled action has seemingly left him less effective. Rangana Herath has been picked apart by Pakistan. Lasith Malinga, who has not looked in great physical shape for a year, has not won a match in a while. Couple this collective loss of form with the selectors' reluctance to play four specialist bowlers, and oppositions have been batting Sri Lanka out of matches for months now.
Pakistan are not so hot after their own high-profile retirements, but they were rarely troubled in Dambulla. They picked up wickets regularly and prevented Sri Lanka from reaching a commanding score. Then Mohammad Hafeez took over.
Like Sri Lanka, Pakistan's top order is light on experience. But with Shoaib Malik at No. 5 and Sarfraz Ahmed lower down, it appears more reliable, for a change.
Angelo Mathews has the task of turning Sri Lanka's tour around, but before his team takes the field, perhaps he has some selection decisions to ponder. Would Sri Lanka be better served by a specialist seamer over one of their allrounders, for example? Is it worth bringing back Sachithra Senanayake, after Seekkuge Prasanna was expensive and wicketless in the first outing?
(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LLWLW
In the spotlight
Dinesh Chandimal has batted almost everywhere in this order, but in the last two ODI innings, he has appeared to have developed a taste for finishing. Encouragingly, after a modest 2014, his legside swipes are working again, and that homespun allure to his batting is back. Some feel he should be batting higher up, but the late middle order seems his slot for now.
Mohammad Irfan didn't take a wicket at Dambulla, continuing a trend of modest returns on the island. In four matches in Sri Lanka, he has three wickets, at 63.66 apiece. Perhaps it's the lack of bounce and slowness in the surfaces that has thwarted him so far. If the Pallekele pitch is anything like the track it turned out for the Test though, Irfan may have more luck there.
Sri Lanka are unlikely to fiddle with their batting much, but the bowling may get a tweak. Expect to see Senanayake back, while Thisara's place in the side goes under the scanner.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Upul Tharanga, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 7 Milinda Siriwardene, 8 Thisara Perera/ Nuwan Pradeep, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Suranga Lakmal
Pakistan will most likely stick to the same side.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Azhar Ali (capt.), 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Babar Azam, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Mohammad Rizwan, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Anwar Ali, 9 Yasir Shah, 10 Rahat Ali, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Pitch and conditions
Light showers are forecast for the afternoon around Kandy. The surface usually has plenty for the quicks, and is notoriously seam-friendly under lights.
Stats and trivia
- Tillakaratne Dilshan has 871 ODI runs at an average of 87.1 at Pallekele. He has five hundreds and two fifties in 13 innings there.
- Thisara Perera averages 10 with the bat and 58.27 with the ball in 14 matches so far this year.
- Pakistan and Sri Lanka have played twice at Pallekele, each side winning one match.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando