Asia Cup: Sri Lankans in do-or-die battle against Pakistan
Dhaka: The ever-so-unpredictable Pakistan face their first big test of the tournament when they take on an injury-hit Sri Lankan team, which was outclassed by India in its lung-opener, in an Asia Cup league match on Thursday.
Pakistan started their campaign on a winning note by beating Bangladesh even though it was a close shave for them given the home team`s fighting performance in a steep chase.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, failed in the chasing job against India.
Faced with a mammoth 304, the islanders fell short by 50 runs despite the fact that they have a batting order that runs deep and was expected to click in the familiar sub-continental environs.
But for the sheer unpredictability of Pakistan, both the teams seem quite a match for each other on paper. Even Pakistan has a long batting order to boast off and they have the destructive Shahid Afridi, who can snatch a game but, like his team, is not consistent enough.
He can be the game-changer one day but can also be a complete letdown the next. But Pakistan can bank on his leg-break bowling which comes in handy almost always.
Their openers notched up good scores against Bangladesh but the experienced middle-order comprising the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq failed to fire.
The bowling too was unimpressive against a side which is considered a minnow at the international level. Pace spearhead Umar Gul was expensive and would have to get his act together quickly as his form is crucial to the team`s chances.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, also have major bowling issues to deal with. Their bowling attack, sans Lasith Malinga, came a cropper on a placid track and allowed the Indians to plunder runs in the lung-opener.
Malinga is expected to be back for tomorrow`s match after being ironically left out yesterday due to his tendency to concede runs against India.
On the batting front too, there are concerns as the chase went haywire after skipper Mahela Jayawardene`s dismissal. The explosive Tillakaratne Dilshan would hold the key to a big score and the four-time champions would hope he fires after a rather disappointing start to the tournament.
For a batting order that runs till number nine, the effort against India was not good enough.
"Three-hundred, I thought, was gettable on this wicket," Jayawardene said after the defeat last night.
"We batted really well but we made quite a few mistakes [too], and that has probably cost us the game."
What also hurt Sri Lanka was the absence of their two attacking all-rounders -- Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera -- both of whom are out injured.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Abdur Rehman, Aizaz Cheema, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Hammad Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake, Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne.
Match starts at 1.30 pm. Live on Neo Sports