Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pakistan gear up for Lankan aggression in ODIs

After winning the three-match test series 1-0, Pakistan face Sri Lanka in the five-match one-day series starting in Dubai from Friday.

While the tests produced defensive batting reminiscent of the early 90s, the crowds and the audience alike will hope for the one-day series to yield some attacking cricket – something that has been a characteristic of the two sides, specially in the shorter versions of the game.

Build up
It now seems normal to expect Pakistan going into a new series striving to shrug off the controversies that surround them off the pitch. It is hardly surprising to note the fact that Pakistan have not lost a bilateral one-day or test series in the past twelve months has gone unnoticed. In fact, it was exactly a year ago that Pakistan lost its last ODI series, at the same venue against South Africa.

Sri Lanka enter the series still trying to figure out how to be competitive in the post-Muralitharan era. The comprehensive manner in which they were outclassed at home by Australia is a testimony to that fact. However, an often-ignored but equally worrying aspect is the fragility in the batting department that is not leaving enough room for the bowlers anyway.

Squad news
Pakistan will be boosted by the return of Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq who were out of favor for contrasting reasons. Umar Gul’s return strengthens the bowling even though Wahab Riaz strangely misses out. In batting, Umar Akmal should provide some much-needed aggression. It will be a tough call for Misbah ul Haq to choose between Shoaib Malik (who averaged only 8.00 against Zimbabwe) and Asad Shafiq (who batted inexplicably slowly in the test series).

Lasith Malinga will be a welcome return to the Sri Lankan side. Upul Tharanga and injury-prone Dilhara Fernando also make their comebacks to lend experience to a side that is otherwise thin on experience. Bulk of the responsibility will still lie with Kumar Sangakkara, and Mahela Jayawardene will be hoping to strike some form.

With the match being played on the weekly holiday of Friday, one should expect a sell-out crowd at the beautifully-constructed Dubai International Stadium. The pitch traditionally has a tendency to play slow, with spinners coming to good effect.

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