About the Match
In what has to be one of the most unexpected test series results in recent history, a battered and beleaguered Sri Lanka swept Pakistan 2-0 in their stronghold of UAE. How much of that will make a difference to the ODI series? The Pakistan ODI team just won the Champions Trophy and is not one to be taken lightly.
The Champions Trophy victory seems so long ago in the wake of the last few weeks of Pakistan cricket but this unpredictability has become a staple to followers of the team. Up until last year, it was the test team that was doing exceptionally well for Pakistan while the ODI team seemed to be stuck in another era altogether.
Some of the players that led the ODI revival for Pakistan include Babar Azam, currently in horrific test match form, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail. Imad Wasim is also an extremely useful player to have in your side as he is miserly with the ball and useful with the bat.
So, has Pakistan changed its style of ODI planning or was the Champions Trophy win an anomaly? Success can be difficult to sustain if the changes were not made at a fundamental level and this is where we feel Pakistan is lacking.
Azhar Ali, the spine of Pakistan’s batting, has been ruled out of the ODI squad because of a knee injury while Mohammad Amir picked up and injury during the last test and has been omitted from the squad as well.
These are big blows to Pakistan although they will hope that their youngsters step up. Imam-ul-Haq has been picked in the team as the opener and it will be interesting to see if he gets the nod ahead of Ahmad Shahzad, the more senior batsman but someone who was dropped for poor form in the middle of the Champions Trophy.
The bowling will be led by Junaid Khan, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim and possibly Usman Khan. Usman was chosen to replace Mohammad Amir in the squad and has made plenty of noise in the Pakistani domestic circuit picking wickets by the bucketloads.
With experienced players like Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Khan in the team, Pakistan will be competitive but their lack of batting firepower and poor fielding standards could cause them falter.
After losing 9 matches on the to India, being beaten by Zimbabwe in the ODI series and struggling massively against Bangladesh no one expected Sri Lanka to be given any chance in the UAE. Their win in the test series will give them a huge boost ahead of the ODI series as they try to replicate their success.
A fair assessment of Sri Lanka’s fortunes indicates that they are actually a better ODI team than a test team. Their batting is pretty well balanced with the likes Niroshan Dickwella, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne in the lineup. Thisara Perera can provide the power hitting in the lower order as well as chip in with some useful overs as well.
The problem for Sri Lanka has been their inconsistency with the bat. They have been getting off to good starts only to throw it away in the middle order or back up some good batting with some horrific bowling. The Sri Lankan fielding standards also seem to have fallen sharply in recent times as the number of dropped catches continues to rise with each series.
Pakistan has a very good bowling attack and if Sri Lanka has to have any chance of winning this series then they need to get on top of their bowlers early. Dickwella seems to be the one batsman who is most likely to take the attack to the Pakistani bowlers alongside Dinesh Chandimal, someone who has always done well against Pakistan.
Kusal Mendis is the future of Sri Lankan batting but that tag seems to be weighing down a bit. He needs to cut loose and put in a couple of performances which will cement his tag as the next big thing in Sri Lankan batsmanship.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers will be glad that they are not up against Virat Kohli and co. in this series and hope to put pressure on the Pakistani batsmen from ball one. Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep are underrated fast bowlers who can pick up early wickets on a consistent basis.
The real trick, though, will come in the middle where Akila Dananjaya, Minida Siriwardana, and Thisara Perera will try to pick wickets while keeping run scoring down at the same time.
We think Sri Lanka can surprise this Pakistani team if their batsmen can get to decent totals more often than not.
Pitch and Conditions
The pitch at Dubai is going to be slow, low and flat. A score of around 270 will be tough to chase and teams will want to bat first to make the most of the conditions. There is next to no threat of rain and the temperatures are expected to be around the mid-thirties.
We are going to go with the form team and back Sri Lanka to wi