Dubai: All eyes will be on Pakistan on Friday to see if they can carry on the form they exhibited in the Champions Trophy into the five-match One Day International (ODI) series against Sri Lanka commencing at the Dubai International Stadium.
In the Champions Trophy, Pakistan emerged on top, displaying all the flair that is needed to be a top class ODI team.
Today, Pakistan are accepted as a force in limited-over cricket. Their recent victory over a World XI in Lahore during the three-match Twenty20 series is another feather in their cap.
The Sri Lankans had stunned Pakistan with a clean sweep in the just concluded two-match Test series and will be aiming to repeat such a performance in the limited-over format as well.
In the Champions Trophy, Pakistan had beaten Sri Lanka by three wickets through Fakhar Zaman’s half-century and Hasan Ali’s three-wicket spell. Both these star performers are in their ODI squad.
Sri Lanka will badly miss their star all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who is injured, and their key pacer Lasith Malinga, who has been rested.
Answering to a query from Gulf News on how much of a challenge is it to take on Pakistan, who are riding high on confidence and without Mathews and Malinga, Sri Lanka skipper Upul Tharanga said: “Pakistan’s recent performance in the one day games are brilliant. We know they are the Champions Trophy winners and they have always been a very good white ball team. Our team is also without our main players especially Angelo, who is out with an injury and Lasith missing out this tour. Unfortunately, Nuwan Pradeep got a niggle at the last moment but players have the confidence because of our win in the Test series.”
Tharanga wants to also use this series as a sort of resurgence in ODIs just as they did in the Test series.
“We believe it is going to be a good series,” he said.
“We want to forget what happened in the past few series against Zimbabwe and India. Everyone is now looking forward.”
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad, too, wants to erase recent memories and forget what happened in the Test series.
“We are moving forward after forgetting what happened in Tests,” he said. “We have some new players in the squad and hopefully they will give good performances.”
When asked whether a weakened Sri Lanka makes his team’s task easy, Sarfraz said: “They are a good team on paper and so it will be a good series.”
Like Sri Lanka, Pakistan are also missing their strike bowler in Mohammad Amir, who is suffering from a shin injury.
“Unfortunately we don’t have Amir but we still have a good bowling attack with Usman (Shinwari) and Ruman Raees along with Junaid Khan. So it is a good attack,” said Sarfraz, who also announced the playing XI.
“Faheem Ashraf, Usman Shinwari, Haris Sohail and Imam-ul-Haq will not be playing tomorrow,” he revealed.
Pakistan ODI squad; Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Imad Wasim, Shahdab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari, Ruman Raees, Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq Sri Lanka ODI: Upul Tharanga (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedara, Thisara Perera, Seekuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay
Match starts: 3pm