Friday, December 13, 2013
Start time 2000 local (1600 GMT)
Mohammad Hafeez had been confident his side would head into the tour with more momentum, and Pakistan's victory in the first Twenty20 proved him correct. Pakistan's senior bowlers were sharp, quick-witted and collected, and their batsmen unruffled, as they chased 146 with five balls to spare. Sri Lanka may be the top-ranked Twenty20 side for now, but Pakistan were clearly the better-drilled and more fluent outfit, after their tough series against South Africa.
Pakistan will also take pleasure in the versatility of their XI from the first match. Left-arm seamer Usman Khan had debuted as a frontline bowler on Wednesday, but after a wayward first over, he was not required to bowl any more, as the spin-bowling allrounders delivered their quotas cheaply. Similarly, 22-year-old Bilawal Bhatti produced a crucial 10 runs from No. 8, providing support to Shahid Afridi, who was in danger of running out of capable partners. Hafeez has spoken repeatedly of blooding players for the World Twenty20 in March, and packing your side with high-impact allrounders is not a bad ploy in the shortest format.
It does not help Sri Lanka that their best player of spin - Mahela Jayawardene - is on paternal leave, but Wednesday's match also served to highlight an emerging trend in the side: the youngsters' aversion to facing slow-bowling in limited-overs cricket. Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal are all more comfortable against the quicks, and they have yet to develop the ability to rotate the strike efficiently when they face high-quality spin. Mathews overcame his deficiency by pulling off several big shots, but Saeed Ajmal and Afridi will be encouraged by the number of dot balls they bowled at Sri Lanka's batsmen.
Pakistan's side remains an inexperienced one, however, and as such their performance is unpredictable. If dew arrives in the second half of the match, as it did on Wednesday, the toss may also play an important role in the outcome.
(last five completed matches, most recent first) Sri Lanka: LWWLL Pakistan: WWWLL
In the spotlight
After the first match Shahid Afridi said he had focused on his bowling for the second half of his career, but admitted that consistent returns with the bat would have made him a more valuable asset for Pakistan. Afridi's innings are often decided by his own mindset. Occasionally he plays sensible knocks that harness his immense talent, but often he is ruled by carelessness, as he attempts low-percentage shots early in his innings. He has tormented Sri Lanka with the bat before, on international debut, and in the 2009 World Twenty20 final, and another good turn might push Pakistan to a series win.
Dinesh Chandimal made his first score over 15 in two years, on Wednesday. How unfortunate for him that the statistic is even worthy of mention. He arrived in 2011 as one of Sri Lanka's brightest, most ebullient talents, but he has faded rapidly in 2013, particularly after being saddled with the Twenty20 captaincy. He will have another chance to bat in the top four again, and if he can play a significant innings, he may help allay fears that he will be a non-contributing captain in the next World Twenty20.
Bilawal Bhatti finished with acceptable figures despite having bowled the most expensive over in the first match, and he is likely to retain his place in the side, particularly if Pakistan stick with their plan to blood youngsters. Sohaib Maqsood only made 13 but he may also remain in the team for the same reason.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Sharjeel Khan, 3 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 4 Sohaib Maqsood, 5 Umar Akmal (wk), 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Umar Amin, 8 Bilawal Bhatti , 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Usman Khan/Junaid Khan
Before the series, Sri Lanka had suggested they would like to trial at least one of the rookie spin-bowling allrounders they have brought on tour, and there is a chance they will do so in this match. Lahiru Thirimanne would be the most likely player to make way for either Ramith Rambukwella or Seekkuge Prasanna.
If Pakistan win this match, they become the No. 1 ranked Twenty20 side in the world, sending Sri Lanka to second alongside India and South Africa.
Dinesh Chandimal has only one score above 30, in 17 Twenty20 innings
"In the last four-five years, I've been focusing on my bowling. But I know how important my batting is for us, and I have to thank Mohammad Hafeez, who keeps saying, "You're still the best. Keeep going and play your natural game." Shahid Afridi