It has been ten years since Karachi saw its last ODI. In that time, three World Cups have been staged, a generation has grown up, and the one-day game has been through a revolution. Sure, this is only a tender sapling of a tour, containing only limited-overs fixtures, with 10 Sri Lanka players having refused to travel. But we are at the start of the longest trip an international side has made to Pakistan since 2009, and the PCB hopes that top-flight cricket will really set about putting its roots down in the country this time. Could a home Test series be on the horizon?
It is difficult to put into words how much the resumption of a regular schedule could mean to Pakistan. Whole cities coming alive for matches, packed stadiums gasping at withering spells of fast bowling and spin-bowling wizardry, while tense battles play out in storied venues. Forget Pakistan; cricket needs this. It would also be fitting, of course, if Misbah-ul-Haq, who shepherded Pakistan so masterfully through their nomad years, gets this chance to shape the team's long-ached-for return home.
But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Sri Lanka have sent a substantially weakened team, owing to 10 players' continued doubts over the security situation. Against a side missing the likes of Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and designated captain Dimuth Karunaratne, the hosts start as strong favourites. What's more important than the runs or wickets, though, is that the tour is on. And that it goes well.
Pakistan WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The old coach is gone, as are selectors and support staff, but Sarfaraz Ahmed is still around as captain, despite Pakistan's failure to make it to the World Cup semi-finals. But will it be the same old Sarfaraz? Will he still bat in the lower middle order? Will he employ the same tactics? How much will Misbah, in his powerful new avatar, change the way Sarfaraz approaches his job? And after a modest World Cup personally, can Sarfaraz lift himself into good form again?
Sri Lanka's top order is among the most brittle in ODIs at the best of times, and it is the batting that has been most weakened by the withdrawals. Their captain for this series, Lahiru Thirimanne, struggles to make the first-choice XI, for example. Nevertheless, Thirimanne is the most experienced batsman on tour, and if Sri Lanka are to make competitive totals here, he will probably be required to play the sorts of long, measured innings he specialised in at his best.
It is difficult to predict Sri Lanka's XI, but Nuwan Pradeep may get a game owing to his experience. Lakshan Sandakan, the only specialist spinner in the squad, is also likely to play.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Lahiru Thirimanne (capt), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), 5 Oshada Fernando, 6 Shehan Jayasuriya, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Wanindu Hasaranga, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Pakistan batsman Asif Ali played only two World Cup matches, but may get an opportunity in this game. Left-arm seamer Usman Shinwari, who last played an ODI in March, could also get a game.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 6 Asif Ali, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Usman Shinwari
Pitch and conditions
It has been raining heavily in the lead-up to the match, which means that there is a chance a wet outfield could frustrate play. When the game does start, a potentially undercooked surface could also be conducive to seam bowling.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan's most recent ODI in Karachi was also against Sri Lanka, in January 2009.
Pakistan have won their six most recent (completed) matches against Sri Lanka - a streak that goes back to 2017.
Thirimanne last captained Sri Lanka in ODIs in 2015, in New Zealand. Sri Lanka won one and lost two matches under his leadership.Babar Azam is ranked 3rd on the ODI batting charts, while Imam-ul-Haq is joint-11th. To find the best-ranking Sri Lanka batsman involved in this series, you have to go all the way down to No. 80 - Avishka Fernando
"Since I came back into the team this year and my average has been over 40 and strike rate over 90, if you talk about the stats. I am right up there in the Sri Lanka team. It's about performing when I get the chance. It doesn't matter where I bat - if the team needs me to bat higher up the order I can do that, if the team needs me to bat in the middle, that's up to me to get that challenge and perform."
Sri Lanka captain Lahiru Thirimanne on his recent performances
"Whoever is part of the squad of 16 at the moment are all first-team players. We'll try to get the best 11 playing given the circumstances in every game, but any of them could step up when required."
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed