About the Match
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have played each other quite often over the last few years with most of the matches being keenly contested. Pakistan will be missing their legendary middle-order batsmen for the first time while Sri Lanka is still struggling to get over the retirement of their legends almost three years back. This promises to be another hard-fought series between the two sides.
For a long time, the presence of Misbah and Younis Khan in the Pakistan side has helped calm the nerves of their supporters and the other players in the side as well. The number of times these two have fought back from difficult positions for Pakistan is difficult to remember but that is a luxury this young team will no longer have.
It is safe to say that at this point of the Pakistan’s team development their batting is their weaker suit. Azhar Ali at number three will become their batting mainstay, a position that he has enjoyed with some success for a fair bit of time already, while Asad Shafiq will now shift higher up the order.
Babar Azam, a player that has enjoyed phenomenal success in the ODI format will try to replicate his success even as other youngsters like Sami Aslam, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail and Sarfaraz Ahmed attempt to find their feet at the test level.
Their bowling, however, is very potent and has plenty of experience as well. Mohammad Amir is dangerous with the new ball while Hasan Ali possesses genuine pace to hurry up the batsmen. In Yasir Shah, Pakistan has potentially the best leg-spinner in test cricket right now, a player who will no doubt play a huge role as the test match progresses.
Inexperience could make this Pakistan team vulnerable especially in the longest format of the game where they will be tested like never before but we firmly believe that their bowling strength will always keep them with a shot at winning.
It is difficult to remember a time in Sri Lankan cricket that has been as dire as it is right now. It is almost as if someone has switched off the tap of endless talent that seemed to sprout up from the tiny island. Poor administrative decisions, multiple retirements of legends and a deteriorating domestic set up have all conspired to push Sri Lanka to the absolute edge.
An absolute shellacking by India where they lost every match in every format was preceded by an ODI loss to Zimbabwe, a near loss in the test to Zimbabwe, a 1-1 sharing of the series against Bangladesh and an early exit from the Champions Trophy.
All of this does not bode well for the series to come against Pakistan.
There are a few bright lights in all this gloom and doom though. Kusal Mendis has shown multiple times that he possesses every single thing required to be a world beater. If he can channel some consistency into his batting, he could well lead a Sri Lankan renaissance.
Similarly, Karunaratne at the top of the order and Niroshan Dickwella coming in at number 6 have the potential to score centuries against the best in the world. Dinesh Chandimal may not be having the best time of late but he always enjoys batting against Pakistan.
All things considered, this Sri Lankan batting unit could certainly give Pakistan a tough time if a few of them hit form.
The Sri Lankan bowling will be heavily dependent on Rangana Herath to provide the bulk of the wickets. His last series against India was very poor but Pakistan does not have the same quality of batsmen, so we could see an improved performance. Lakshan Sandakan is a definite wicket taker as well but he could definitely go for plenty of runs as well.
With Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal in their attack as well, this Sri Lankan bowling attack is not too bad and could easily put the frail Pakistani batting under pressure.
Pitch and Conditions
The pitch at Abu Dhabi is almost always slow, flat and difficult for the bowlers. It starts to take some spin at the match progresses but it is all about scoring the runs in the first innings and then piling on the pressure. Winning the toss and batting is the way to go here.
The weather will be hot and humid making things difficult for the players.
These are two flawed teams that could easily beat each other. Current form, however, seems to suggest that Pakistan will win.
Back Pakistan to win.