HAMBANTOTA: Pakistan and Sri Lanka begin a three-match one-day series on Saturday (today) hoping to gauge each other’s firepower and bench strength ahead of the World Cup just six months away. The two former world champions have been drawn in different halves for one-day cricket’s showpiece that is to be played in Australia and New Zealand in February and March. Pakistan, the 1992 champions, will look to bounce back after an embarrassing 2-0 whitewash for Misbahul Haq’s tourists in the short Test series that concluded on Monday.
Sri Lanka, who won the World Cup four years later in 1996, hope to build on a successful run by Angelo Mathews’ team in limited-overs cricket this year when they won the one-day Asia Cup and the World Twenty20. “Our recent record has been good, but we have to make sure we remain consistent and do the basics right,” Mathews said ahead of the first match in Hambantota. “The one-dayers will be different and Pakistan will come hard at us. They are a good side and we have to be at the top of our game.”
Mahela Jayawardene, who retired this week from Test cricket to concentrate on his World Cup preparations, and fellow veteran Kumar Sangakkara lead a strong batting line-up that also includes opener Tillakaratne Dilshan. Sri Lanka will miss off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake, who is undergoing remedial work on his bowling action after being reported by umpires on the England tour in June.
But Pakistan will be without one-day cricket’s top bowler Saeed Ajmal for part of the series with the off-spinner, who was also reported for a suspect action, flying to Australia for testing. “If he gets a flight on Friday then he will miss the first one-day (match) but we are trying to get him back by August 26 in time for the next game a day later in Colombo,” team manager Moin Khan told AFP.
Pakistan captain Misbah was confident the tourists will recover from the Test whitewash to put on a better display in the one-dayers. “This is a different format and we play it well,” said Misbah, whose team beat Sri Lanka 3-2 in the one-day series in the United Arab Emirates in December. “This is a good chance to assess ourselves since the World Cup is not too far away. Every one-dayer we play will tell us where we stand.”
Pakistan were reinforced by eight one-day specialists, including the talismanic Shahid Afridi and former captain Mohammad Hafeez, who joined the squad after the Tests. Lanky paceman Mohammad Irfan, one of cricket’s tallest bowlers at seven feet, one inch (2.16 metres), is also back after recovering from a hip injury. The second match will be played at the Premadasa stadium in Colombo on August 27 and the third in Dambulla on August 30.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suraj Randiv.
Pakistan: Misbahul Haq (capt) Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Younus Khan, Umar Akmal, Fawad Alam, Sohaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Anwar Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Talha, Wahab Riaz, Zulfiqar Babar, Mohammad Irfan.
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