UAE hopes hinge on improbable victory
Sri Lanka take on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the final Group A encounter in Lahore, a match that matters little in the context of the tournament, unless UAE can pull off a highly improbable upset
Thursday June 26, 2008
Start time 16.00 local time (10.00 GMT)
Sanath Jayasuriya has carried his fantastic IPL form into the Asia Cup
Sri Lanka take on United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the final Group A encounter in Lahore, a match that matters little in the context of the tournament, unless UAE can pull off a highly improbable upset. Sri Lanka, with their resounding win against Bangladesh, have virtually qualified for the next round and will look to build momentum going into the tougher round-robin stage featuring the top two teams from each group.
Sri Lanka haven't had much success since they qualified for the 2007 World Cup final, losing series against Pakistan, England and West Indies as well as the tri-series in Australia and only winning at home against Bangladesh. Their dip in form coincided with lean patches suffered by their leading batsmen - Sanath Jayasuriya scored no fifties or hundreds during this period, Mahela Jayawardene averaged 26.20, and even their best batsman Kumar Sangakkara averaged only 35. However, both Jayasuriya and Sangakkara hit form during the IPL and they combined superbly against Bangladesh, adding 116 runs for the first wicket inside 50 overs. Sri Lanka's bowling attack has also been strengthened considerably: Muttiah Muralitharan is back after missing the series in the Caribbean as is Dilhara Fernando.
For UAE, on the other hand, international fixtures against quality opponents are few and far between - their most recent ODIs before this tournament were in the 2004 Asia Cup - and they will be keen to bow out of the tournament with an improved performance after they lost the opening game to Bangladesh by 96 runs.
Sri Lanka (last five completed matches) WLLWL
UAE LLLWL (one-day internationals only)
Watch out for ...
Khurram Khan is a left-arm spinner and middle-order batsman who took two wickets and scored 78 in UAE's Asia Cup opener against Bangladesh. He has been playing for his country since 2001 and has captained them during his seven-year career. He was UAE's top scorer - 114 runs at an average of 38 - and also took four wickets at 22 apiece in the Pro-Arch Trophy in 2007-08.
Jayasuriya made an emphatic statement during the IPL where he scored 514 runs at a strike-rate of 166 for Mumbai Indians after he was left out of Sri Lanka's one-day squad for the series in the West Indies. He scored a rapid 72 off 47 balls on his comeback for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh in the first match of the Asia Cup.
Sri Lanka, strengthened by the return of Jayasuriya, Muralitharan and Fernando, crushed Bangladesh by 131 runs on Wednesday. They only reason they would want to change that winning combination against UAE is to rest their older players from the gruelling physical demands of back-to-back matches in the hot Pakistan summer.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Nuwan Kulasekera, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Dilhara Fernando.
UAE (probable): 1 Amjad Javed, 2 Arshad Ali, 3 Indika Batuwitarachchi, 4 Amjad Ali (wk), 5 Saqib Ali (capt), 6 Khurram Khan, 7 Vikrant Shetty, 8 Mohammad Tauqir, 9 Shadeep Silva, 10 Zahid Shah, 11 Fahad Alhashmi.
Stats and trivia Jayasuriya's 72 against Bangladesh was his first ODI fifty since the 2007 World Cup final against Australia. Between then and now, he had scored 305 runs in 20 innings at an average of 15.25. Kumar Sangakkara averages 69 in Pakistan, where he has scored 276 runs in four innings with a hundred and two fifties. Chaminda Vaas' 14 matches in Pakistan have yielded 21 wickets at 21.42 apiece and an economy-rate of 4.17 per over.
"It is important we respect each and every team that is part of the Asia Cup."
Mahela Jayawardene sings a familiar tune ahead of what should be a simple outing for his boys.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo