Abu Dhabi: Sri Lanka has been unable to stem the rot in their batting that has left them floundering in the One-day Internationals — nine defeats in a row paints a very sorry picture.
With the morale at rock bottom, the team will have to show a lot of character to regroup in little over 24 hours to keep their hopes alive in the five-match ODI series which has swung heavily toward Pakistan, who has taken a 2-0 lead. The third ODI gets underway at 3pm Wednesday at the Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.
On Monday, they made heavy weather of the modest total of 220 for win and despite a fighting unbeaten ton by skipper Upul Tharanga, fell short by 32 runs.
The tremendous grit shown by the skipper has to be appreciated, but he had luck by his side as Pakistan muffed four clear-cut opportunities to send him packing early. The century on a slow testing track would have, however, done a world of good to the skipper’s confidence for the remaining part of the series.
Though having lifted his own game, the skipper has plenty to worry ahead of the crucial clash. None of his frontline batsmen showed spine to stick around with him. His opening partner Niroshan Dickwella and No. 3 Kusal Mendis were overcautious against Pakistan attack and consumed a lot of deliveries before eventually succumbing to pressure.
“Bowlers were really good today. It was a tough wicket. If you hung in there, it got better and better. Thirimanne’s wicket was crucial. The seam bowlers bowled especially well, Akila (Dananjaya) and Vandersay did well. Disappointed to lose. Vandersay batted well too, but when you’re 90 for seven, it’s a tough task. It was good to carry the bat, but disappointed with the result,” said Tharanga, who admitted before the match that they have been trying to get their batting sorted for nearly two years.
Pakistan, too, struggled with their batting but were guided to safety yet again by youngster Babar Azam, who has been on a roll in the ODIs. Azam raced to his second successive ton in the series and became the quickest to reach his seventh ODI century in just his 33rd innings. He, in the process also became the first ever player to score five consecutive centuries in a country and his average of 75.53 in 18 innings had elevated him to the second spot behind India’s batting machine Virat Kohli, who averages 81.84.
It was mainly due to the ton-up man’s 109-run stand for the seventh wicket with Shadab Khan (52 not out) that ensured Pakistan posted a score past the 200-mark after being reduced to 101 for 6 at one stage.
Though the team is relying heavily on Azam, someone or the other has put their hands up to provide support from the other end. If it was Shoaib Malek who did the job in the first ODI, it was Shadab Khan in the second. The leg spinner walked away with the Man of the Match award for his all-round performance which saw him score his maiden unbeaten half century and take three wickets.
“Our batting collapsed but the way they batted after that on a difficult pitch was brilliant. Can’t praise the bowlers enough for defending this 220. Babar is young and he will adjust to Test cricket as well. He likes to play his shots so he enjoys success in ODIs. He’ll adapt to Tests also I’m confident of it,” said Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad.
“The pitch kept getting slower and slower, so batting wasn’t easy and that’s why we chose to bat. We’re trying to give confidence to the boys, like to Shadab today. If we trust the youngsters, they give us good performances,” he added.
Khan was extremely delighted that he could contribute to the team’s cause and expressed his keenness to establish himself as a good all-rounder in the team.
“I have always tried to contribute with both bat and ball. I play as an all-rounder in the team and so it is my duty to perform in whatever way I can according to the team’s requirement. I’m grateful to Allah and the good wishes of my parents. Got opportunity with the bat and I thought it’d be my first and last one and approached it like that,” said the 19-year-old.
Pakistan, meanwhile, announced a 16-man squad for the Twenty20 series, with Sarfraz Ahmad leading the Pakistan side.
The Squad: Sarfraz Ahmad (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmad Shahzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Amir Yamin, Mohammad Amir (subject to fitness clearance), Rumman Raees, Usman Shinwari, Umar Amin.
Catch the match
Pakistan vs Sri Lanka
Third One-day International, Abu Dhabi
Starts at 3pm
Live telecast on OSN Sports HD Cricket