Match factsThursday July 30, 2009
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)
Big PictureThe Tests delivered the promise of riveting cricket, at a time when the game's traditional format was under threat. Now save your appetite for the one-dayers. The selling point of the series comes from the visitor's camp. It marks the return of two exciting players from the ICL, who have been in heavy demand from loyal Pakistan followers to give the team a facelift - Imran Nazir and Naved-ul-Hasan. The other player from the ICL, Abdul Razzaq, had already started his rebirth as an international player in the World Twenty20 but was kept out of the Tests and Mohammad Yousuf too made a stirring comeback in the Tests.
Both teams are at a rebuilding stage, with the 2011 World Cup in mind. The Sri Lankan captain, Kumar Sangakkara, highlighted that on the eve of the opening ODI in Dambulla, as it gives a chance for his team to experiment before arriving at the right combination. Instead of trying out new blood, both teams have handed comebacks to old faces, Thilan Samaraweera being a prime example from the home team. Tillakaratne Dilshan's temporary absence may come as a blessing in disguise for them as it's an opportunity for another attacking opener to fill the breach. After all, Sri Lanka cannot depend on Sanath Jayasuriya forever.
They will be up against the team which thumped them fairly convincingly the last time they met in the limited-overs format - the ICC World Twenty20. Where will the pendulum swing this time?
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka - WLLLL
Pakistan - WLLLW
Watch out for…Upul Tharanga: With Dilshan bandaged and ruled out for the first couple of ODIs at least, Tharanga's spot at the top is more or less guaranteed. Holding his place once Dilshan returns will be his challenge. He last played an ODI during the tour of Bangladesh earlier this year but was overlooked for the series against Pakistan and India. His performance in the warm-up game in Kurunegala on Monday was inauspicious - he was out for a first-ball duck. Tharanga is a tried and tested player who's had success in the past and if he backs himself, he should manage some substantial scores, focus on building an innings and leave the power hitting to Jayasuriya.
Imran Nazir: He was the people's favourite not too long ago and still is. Trawl through the comments from readers in Cricinfo's recent stories and blogs on Pakistan and Nazir features almost everywhere. He was the most-wanted player from the ICL and for a good reason too. He smacked an unbeaten 111 off 44 balls to guide Lahore Badshahs to the ICL title last November and fans realised just how much they missed him. Pakistan can look forward to the exciting opening duo of Nazir and Kamran Akmal.
Team newsDilhara Fernando was added at the last minute as cover for the injury-prone Lasith Malinga. Sangakkara didn't reveal the exact combination and said that Samaraweera and Thilina Kandamby were in the mix.
Sri Lanka: (likely) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt and wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamdy/Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga/Dilhara Fernando, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan
Pakistan have an embarrassment of riches and the competition for places has shot up. Will Yousuf walk in, and if he does, at whose expense? There was no word on a possible debut for Umar Akmal, who smashed an unbeaten 103 off 76 balls in Kurunegala.
Pakistan: (likely) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Fawad Alam, 5 Shahid Afridi, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Misbah-ul-Haq/ Mohammad Yousuf, 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Naved-ul-Hasan, 11 Saeed Ajmal/ Mohammad Aamer
Pitch and conditionsSri Lanka's main batsmen have found it tough going in Dambulla and here's what Sangakkara had to say about the pitch: "Over the years it's been a tough wicket to read. It's had various scores on it from low to high, the highest being 285. The key is not having a negative mindset going out there. It's best to go out there with an open mind, assess the conditions very quickly and communicate it to the dressing room. Those few little basics that we talk about in building partnerships are going to be the key."
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan is the only team with a positive win-loss record against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka: in 21 ODIs they have won ten and lost nine. Since 2000, though, they have lost five and won three against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
- Teams batting first have won only five out of 13 day games in Dambula. The last four day matches here have all been won by the team batting second.
- Sri Lanka's main batsmen have had a tough time in Dambulla. Sangakkara averages less than 29 in 20 innings, while Jayasuriya has only two 50-plus scores in 18 innings.
- Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene haven't managed a half-century at home against Pakistan in 15 ODI innings. Sangakkara's highest in eight innings is an unbeaten 36, while Jayawardene's best in seven innings is 49.
- Muralitharan has enjoyed the conditions in Dambulla, taking 33 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 15.36 at an economy rate of 3.46 runs per over.
Quotes"You are never sure as to whether they will be explosive or be destructive. Sometimes they are a hard side to play, all the more so we should be thinking about our game a lot more that we should about theirs."
Kumar Sangakkara on Pakistan
"We are aware of Sri Lanka's strength we must stick to our basics every day and in every game. Sri Lanka's fielding is fantastic and they have the upper hand in fielding. If we field like we did in the Twenty20 we can provide good competition."
Younis Khan knows where his opponents have the edge
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo