About the Match
There would be no one more pleased to move away from the ODI series and get on with the T20 leg of the tour than the Sri Lankans. After winning the tests 2-0 and losing the ODI’s 5-0, the visitors would be keen to remember this tour as one series won each and want to finish the tour on a high. Pakistan, on the other hand, will be full of confidence after their annihilation of Sri Lanka in the tests and also have the added incentive of playing the last T20 in front of their home crowd.
Will this T20 series be any closer than the hopelessly one-sided ODI’s?
The shorter format version of the game certainly seems to be Pakistan’s liking at the moment and they will once again go into this series as firm favorites. They have their entire full-strength squad available to them for selection and will, in fact, have a few selection headaches on their hand.
Imam ul Haq was very impressive in the ODI series but Ahmad Shahzad has runs to his name the last time Pakistan played T20 cricket. Usman Khan ran through the Sri Lankan side in the final ODI proving that the hype around him in Pakistan was real and benching him for Rumman Raees seems highly unlikely.
The fact that Mohammad Amir is out injured and not being missed at all is a sign of some very good times ahead for Pakistani cricket.
The crux of the T20 team that will take the field remains the same as that of the ODI team. Fakhar Zaman at the top of the order will try to set the tempo, Babar Azam will play through the innings, while Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, and Sarfaraz Nawaz make for a strong middle order.
How Pakistan reacts of it loses Babar Azam early still remains to be seen because the man has been in such prolific form. His T20 record is very good as well and he will be the lynchpin around which this entire batting rotates.
The lack of a genuine power hitter down the order could hurt Pakistan in the future but maybe not against a depleted Sri Lankan side that is currently in the middle of its worst form in decades.
This Pakistan team has made giant strides to come into the modern era of limited overs cricket but still lags behind in fielding. Saving crucial runs and taking catches will make this strong team even stronger if they can somehow instill the importance of fielding in their players.
A look back at 2017 is not something any Sri Lankan fan will want to do. The T20 format, though, has been an outlier in terms of results. Sri Lanka actually won away series in Australia and South Africa at the beginning of the year and would consider themselves most competitive in this format of the game.
For this series, however, Sri Lanka is not going to be at full strength since those players that are not willing to travel to Pakistan for the third T20 have not been picked for the squad. This means that Niroshan Dickwella, Akila Dananjaya, Upul Tharanga, and Dinesh Chandimal will not be considered for this series.
So Sri Lanka has lost its most aggressive batsmen, its highest scorer from the ODI’s, its most experienced batsman, and its best young spin bowler.
Not a good sign for a team that has struggled massively over the last few weeks.
On the plus side, the new additions to the squad will come without any baggage of the previous losses and could inject some much-needed energy into the side but there will be a serious question about their skill levels.
T20 cricket reduces the difference between teams and a single performance can be enough to take the side to victory. In this Sri Lankan side, Thisara Perera and Lahiru Gamage seem to be the most likely to provide such a performance.
Dilshan Munaweera is expected to open the innings alongside Gunathilaka and their partnership will be crucial to Sri Lanka’s fortunes. Gunathilaka is one of the top batsmen in Sri Lanka right now and is returning to the squad after being axed for disciplinary reasons while Dilshan Munaweera has impressed watchers in every opportunity that he has got.
All things considered, the task in front of Sri Lanka seems very difficult.
Pitch and Conditions
The pitch at Abu Dhabi will not change its character and continue to be low and slow. This could actually make things even closer between the two sides and lead to a relatively low-scoring thriller. A late start to the match will ensure that both teams are affected by the dew equally.
Pakistan to wi