Just a week ago both Pakistan and Sri Lanka were in total disarray. While Pakistan turned their fortunes around with a brilliant win against the tournament favorites England, Sri Lanka defeated Afghanistan defending a low total giving a huge boost to their confidence. Both teams are not without their flaws though. Pakistan batting which failed against the bouncer barrage of West Indies pacemen redeemed themselves with a stellar performance against England. The bowling attack of Pakistan though is still a worry. They did defend the total of 348 comfortably but England was in the game for the most part of it.
The batting though looks good on flatter wickets with Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman in good form. Babar Azam is Pakistan’s best batter and the batting of Mohammad Hafeez was a big positive for the men in green in the game against the hosts. The bowling attack though did a better job at picking up wickets this time around and Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir looking in good form. Their lone spinner Shadab Khan did a good job as well with the ball. Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik combined well to fill that fifth bowling spot. While Pakistan’s team seems to give a settled look, their bowling is still a concern. Pakistan decided to drop an all-rounder to strengthen their batting which might be detrimental in games against stronger sides on flat wickets. The batting also is suspect on wickets which aren’t conducive to stroke play. But again they would have renewed confidence beating England who has dominated them in recent time.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has been low on confidence in recent times. Their ODI team have been in really poor form and they have hardly won in this format over the last couple of years. The win against Afghanistan wasn’t a comfortable one either. Sri Lanka after getting off to a quick start found themselves struggling once again and were bowled out for just over 200. The batting relies a lot on Angelo Mathews who hasn’t been in good form either. The batting of Kusal Perera who opened the batting would be something which might give Sri Lanka some confidence going into a very important game against Pakistan. The bowling attack which went wicketless in the first game against New Zealand did well in restricting Afghanistan to just 152. Lasith Malinga was among wickets as well and Nuwan Pradeep bowled brilliantly to grab 4 wickets.
Head to Head:
Pakistan has dominated Sri Lanka historically in ODIs and the World Cup games haven’t been too different. Pakistan has a 7-0 W/L record against Sri Lanka in the World Cups.
Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka): In a struggling batting line up former captain Angelo Mathews is the crucial cog in the batting order. Angelo Mathews has a very good ODI record and his performance in the past against Pakistan has been good. In 33 games he has played against Pakistan he has scored 917 runs at 43.66. The Sri Lankan batting lacks experience and in this crucial game, they will be hoping for Mathews to guide the young players in the XI.
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka): Lasith Malinga is a Sri Lankan legend and his presence in the playing XI is a great learning experience for the Sri Lankan young players. Malinga has been in good form and he is not only expected to guide the young bowlers in the team but also will be crucial in getting early wickets in this all-important game.
Babar Azam (Pakistan): Babar Azam is one of the best young players in the world and the best batsman in the Pakistan line up. His record against Sri Lanka has been phenomenal and he will once again be expected to score runs against his favorite opposition. Babar in just 8 games against Sri Lanka averages 58 with 2 hundreds.
Mohammad Amir (Pakistan): Before the start of the World Cup, the form of spearhead Amir was a big concern for Pakistan. He had hardly taken any wickets and he almost did not make it to the World Cup squad. But after the first two games, it does seem like Amir has gotten back his wicket-taking ability. He seems to be in a better rhythm and has started picking wickets with the new ball. Pakistan’s problem has been taking wickets the new ball and Mohammad Amir has done that for them in the world cup.
What they said?
“We don’t pay too much heed to what people say. You do feel bad when you get to know you’re being given such name tags but you can’t let these things affect you. I don’t get bothered by such things, at least, and I hope other players, too, don’t,” Hafeez said after Pakistan’s victory in Nottingham.
“It’s not easy to defend a small total like 187. We knew their two openers would go hard but we knew that if we got one or two early wickets we could put them on the back foot. The bowlers and fielders did a really good job, so we need to improve the batting in the middle part of our innings.” Said Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne after their win against Afghanistan
Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (WKT & Capt), Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir
Sri Lanka Xi:
Dimuth Karunaratne (C), Kusal Perera (WKT), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Pradeep
Both the teams have had a poor start to their world cup campaign but have gotten their confidence back with contrasting wins. Pakistan surely looks the stronger of the two teams and are expected to win this encounter as well at Bristol. Pakistan team seems to be coming together at the right time and all the pieces are falling into place at the right time. For Sri Lanka, through the issues still persist, their batting is still a worry and it is difficult to see them troubling a good Pakistan side.