FATULLAH: Pakistan and Sri Lanka will cross swords once again when they take on each other in the opening encounter of Asia Cup 2014 on Tuesday. The two teams had recently played a five- match ODI series in UAE, which Pakistan won. As far as the Sri Lankan camp is concerned, a new coach in South African Graham Ford and ongoing switch between T20I skipper Dinesh Chandimal and ODI captain Angelo Mathews, though, leaves plenty to prove.
They come into the tournament after beating Asia Cup hosts 3-0 in their own backyard. Lankans will miss veteran Tillakaratne Dilshan who was ruled out after picking a finger injury. Lahiru Thirimanne has been included as his replacement. SL have a chance to displace India from the second spot by winning all their matches, including the final, in the Asia Cup but if India win even one of their matches, they will hold on to their ranking ahead of the April 1 cut-off date. The uncapped Chaturanga de Silva has been named in a strong squad ahead of the stalwart Rangana Herath, but won’t walk into the playing XI. If the opportunity does arrive, though, the gap between success at domestic and international level will be a large one to navigate.
As for Pakistan, the defending champions, the most sought after match will be the one against India when the two arch-rivals meet for the first time after the ICC Champions Trophy, which Dhoni’s men had won in a rain-affected match. “It’s always a big challenge to playing against India because there is so much interest in the game. India are a formidable side and we have to be at our best to win,” Pakistan captain Misbahul Haq said ahead of their tournament-opener against Sri Lanka. Fatullah in Narayangonj, a suburban town in south of Dhaka, will host first five league matches before the tournament shifts to Mirpur in Dhaka.
Pakistan, who beat Bangladesh in last year’s final, come to the tournament on the back of series wins over Sri Lanka and South Africa and Misbah and Mohammad Hafeez along with Ahmed Shehzad will be the batting backbone. The bowling department will sorely miss tall left-arm pacer Mohammed Irfan, who has been ousted after injuring his hip. Umar Gul will spearhead the attack while uncapped Mohammad Talha, who has been included after his six wickets against Sri Lanka in Sharjah Test, will look to make a mark.
Pakistan: Misbahul Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Mohammad Talha.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Ashan Priyanjan, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Sachithra Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis, Chathuranga De Silva, Dhammika Prasad.
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