Problems galore as Pakistan, Sri Lanka face off
Hyderabad: The win against the Netherlands wasn’t the most convincing but an inconsistent and mercurial Pakistan will still fancy their chances against a bruised and battered Sri Lanka in the World Cup match here on Tuesday.
If their batting against the Associate nation was any indication, then Pakistan will need to do a lot more in the coming weeks, starting with the clash against Sri Lanka, whose spinners have the ability to cause damage in the opposition ranks.
Pakistan are traditionally good against spinners but Babar Azam and Co. would take the likes of promising Dunith Wellalage and company lightly at their peril.
Sri Lanka will be closely monitoring the fitness of spinner Maheesh Theekshana, who missed their first match against South Africa in New Delhi. Lanka had lost that match by 102 runs.
Theekshana had suffered a hamstring injury during the Asia Cup.
Stationed in the city for over 10 days now and having already played a few matches, including the two warm-up games, Pakistan are aware of the conditions at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal.
But still, they were troubled by the bowlers from the Netherlands in their tournament opener, at one stage being reduced to 38/3 before Mohammad Rizwan and Saud Shakeel joined forces to steady the innings and lift them to 286 all out with an over to spare.
Had it not been for handy knocks from Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan, the Pakistanis wouldn’t have crossed even 280. These are among the things the 1992 champions would not like to repeat against the Sri Lankans who are expected to offer stronger resistance than the Dutch.
Even as their top-order failed against an Associate nation, Pakistan must be quite happy with the manner in which Shakeel went about his task in his first World Cup game.
In the company of senior partner Rizwan, Shakeel showed clarity and calmness as they rescued the team after the top-order failure in a match that will be remembered more for Bas de Leede’s all-round heroics than any other performance.
Pakistan arrived in India after an Asia Cup campaign that exposed the chinks in their armour, but playing in the land of their arch-rivals is an opportunity for their players to become national heroes overnight, and they must be motivated by that thought.
Having done just enough to get the better of the Netherlands, Pakistan would be keen to raise their game against the Islanders, who are plagued by problems of their own.
The 1996 winners are coming off a thrashing at the hands of South Africa who created a plethora of records with the bat the other day.
What could stand Sri Lanka in good stead is that, unlike the Pakistanis, a lot of their players are familiar with the Indian conditions, having played matches in this part regularly, and they would look to use that to their advantage.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.
Sri Lanka Squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis (vc), Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Lahiru Kumara, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Dilshan Madushanka, Dushan Hemantha.