Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pakistan favorites against embattled Sri Lanka in dead encounter

Rallying on their impressive run, Pakistan will be keen to dent Sri Lanka further as the two sides meet in the inconsequential final one-day match at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Sri Lanka started the series at No. 2 on ICC ODI rankings and have already slipped to number four. Pakistan, on the other hand, edged past England and will be looking to solidify their fifth slot further.

After back-to-back wins, Pakistan’s confidence is sky high. From the lows of failure to a come-from-behind win in the fourth match, all masterminded by flamboyant Shahid Afridi, the team has continued its unbeaten run in bilateral series this year. And the team knows that to put all the controversies behind them, they need to keep winning irrespective of the series result, and that will keep Pakistan hungry for a win in the final game.

Pakistan may fiddle around a bit with their line-up, to try different combinations and test their bench strength. Umar Gul has looked out of sorts in the last two matches and may be rested to give Sohail Tanvir another chance. Another surprising omission has been that of Junaid Khan who impressed in the test matches as well. Shoaib Malik who looked out of sorts in the previous game is likely to retain his place as all-rounder Abdul Razzaq has been sent home due to injury.

For Sri Lanka, their abysmal tour keeps getting worse. Their experienced players have failed to carry the team over the line, and the youngsters have been unsuccessful in translating their immense potential into on-field results. On Sunday the team failed to chase 201, their last seven wickets collapsing for 19 runs. To make matters worse, Sri Lanka have injury concerns that may hamper their performance even further. Skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan is expected to lead the side despite injury. Mahela Jayawardene though has been ruled out of the remainder of the tour and has flown back home.

Given the unpredictable nature of performances on both sides, another close encounter cannot be ruled out on the slow, low pitches of Abu Dhabi. The match will be crucial not only for the teams’ viewpoints, but also for individual players to stand up and be counted with both teams looking to score psychological points ahead of the Twenty20 international.

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