Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sri Lanka battle to keep series alive

Sri Lanka enter into the fourth ODI facing a grim battle to avoid yet another series defeat following the World Cup. Misbah ul Haq, on the other hand, will be looking to continue his impressive run as skipper and cap a series win against the No. 2 ODI side in the world.

The third ODI provided a sensational display of hard-fought cricket, with Pakistan’s energy and fighting spirit coupled with some astute captaincy completing their 21-run win.

Mohammed Hafeez’s Man-of-the-Match performance adds some confidence to the top order, though the middle-order needs to patch up having failed to reach a total of 300+ after being well-set in the third ODI.

Pakistan’s spinners will look to continue tormenting their opposition, with Saeed Ajmal almost unreadable for the less-experienced Sri Lankan batsmen. The fast bowlers looked less impressive, though Umar Gul ended up with three wickets.

One department where Pakistan have to improve considerably is their fielding. Pakistan were lucky to come out winners after missing several run-outs and other half-chances, and they will be keen to avoid complacency in the department.

Sri Lanka’s tendency to keep losing wickets regularly continues to cost them heavily. Tillakaratne Dilshan’s return to form would ideally spark a change in fortunes. Besides looking to build partnerships, their batsmen also need to work on their running between the wickets, as many mix-ups were witnessed on Friday. Mahela Jayawardene, having just reached 10,000 ODI runs, will be hoping to contribute heavily in the coming games to lead a struggling middle-order.

For the Sri Lankan bowlers, consistency is what their aim must be. Though they made a good comeback in the later overs, they were all over the place to begin with, allowing Pakistani openers a good opening stand.

Team news
Pakistan have no major reasons to spring around changes as Sohail Tanvir may be given an extended run. Sri Lanka could bring in left-arm Chanaka Welegedera, replacing the injured Suranga Lakmal, for underperforming Dilhara Fernando to provide control and variety.

Cricket returns to Sharjah after a long gap as two-test playing nations will be in action here after eight years. The last such match was the 2000th ODI, played between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in 2003. The pitch is renowned for favoring the batsmen, with many high-scoring day/night thrillers having been played in the 1990s.

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