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September 16, 2007
Sri Lanka have been one of the in-form teams in this tournament, quelling with ease challenges from Kenya and New Zealand, but Pakistan, who beat them in a warm-up match, could offer a tougher challenge. Of late, Pakistan have had the measure of the Sri Lankans, losing just two of the last ten ODIs between them, and while Sri Lanka will still start off as favourites, there could be an upset on the cards.
Bat play: Sri Lanka's top order has been in rip-roaring form so far in the tournament, scoring 260 against Kenya and then chasing down 164 with plenty to spare against New Zealand. Both those games were in Johannesburg, which means they are accustomed to the conditions. Sanath Jayasuriya has been pick of the lot so far, scoring 149 runs from 88 balls. His recent ODI form against Pakistan hasn't been so flash, though: in his last ten games against them, he only averages 20.50, and the challenge for Sri Lanka - and the chance for Pakistan - will be if he falls early.
Pakistan's batting has been iffy so far, struggling a bit against Scotland and then making a mess of what should have been a comfortable chase against India. The openers, Imran Nazir and Salman Butt, have failed in both innings, and Mohammad Hafeez might get a look-in at the top of the order on Monday. Misbah-ul-Haq has been the man in form, and deserves to bat higher than his No. 6 slot.
Wrecking ball: Mohammad Asif destroyed India's top order and still finished on the losing side in Durban, but in the excellent batting conditions that have been a constant here, even Asif might struggle. With slow bowlers doing so well here, Hafeez is a near-certainty to play, and his canny offspin will bolster Pakistan's bowling strength.
Sri Lanka's weak link in their game against New Zealand was Gayan Wijekoon, the left-arm medium pacer who has neither the pace nor the consistency to cut it in this format. Expect him to be replaced, possibly by Kaushal Lokuarachchi, who was the 12th man against New Zealand.
Keep your eye on: Mahela Jayawardene. He played a little gem against New Zealand, scoring 35 from 18 balls, and is in good enough form to play a match-winning hand.
Shop talk: Jayawardene has singled out two men from either side to play a key role in the match. "I think much will depend how Jayasuriya handles Asif and if he overcomes him [Asif] then we can make a big difference against Pakistan. The clash between the two best players of both the teams will be a rare exhibition of skills and they [both] can be vital for giving their teams the advantage."
Pitching it right: It doesn't matter which strip in the square is used, it'll still be superb for batting. Under light, the ball should come on to the bat even better.
Pakistan (likely): Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik (capt), Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal (wk), Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif
Sri Lanka (likely): Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Chamara Silva, Jehan Mubarak, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando
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