Sri Lanka and Pakistan have managed to resurrect their World Cup campaigns with wins over England and Afghanistan respectively. Having been thrashed 4-0 in the One-Day International (ODI) series prior to the World Cup, Pakistan overcame a massive challenge against England to finally get the monkey off their back.
The Sri Lankan batting – characterized after the collapse against the Afghanistan as being “like schoolkids”, according to Tillakaratne Dilshan -- let them down once again, but it was the bowlers who stepped up and managed to take them home in a low-scoring encounter against Afghanistan, just their second ODI win this year.
Both sides made a few tweaks to team combinations and batting order from their first games, which paid dividends. Pakistan not only got Shoaib Malik back into the XI, but also promoted Mohammad Hafeez to No 4 which is where he performs best. With Malik too in the team, Pakistan did not need Imad Wasim, as Hafeez and Malik combined to bowl 10 overs, returning figures of two for 53 between them.
Hafeez does not just get through his overs to make up the numbers, but also picks up crucial wickets.
Sri Lanka’s move in its first outing to open with Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne was junked, with Kusal Perera moved up in place of Thirimanne against Afghanistan. Perera has an average of 52 as an opener since 2018, while Thirimanne averages 41.15 at No 3. The left-hander is also amongst the highest when it comes to runs contribution percentage in 2019. This is their best order, and should therefore be the same against Pakistan as well.
The fact that Thisara Perera has been Sri Lanka’s top-scorer since 2018 indicates that their top-order has not been in good form. The all-rounder, who generally bats at No 7 or below, also has one of the highest boundary percentages and plays the least dot balls, among the top 10 run-getters during this period.
Sri Lanka’s most experienced batsman Angelo Mathews has not been in good touch, but he has done well against Pakistan in the past (Ave 43.7) and will look to regain his form. Kusal Mendis, who has edged two of the three balls he has faced in the tournament so far, finds his place in jeopardy. Someone like Jeevan Mendis could get a look in, either in his place or in place of Dhananjaya de Silva.
In List A matches in 2019, Jeevan has not just been in good form with the bat, but his leg-spinners have also fetched him quite a few wickets. While Jeevan has hit 272 runs at 45.3, Dhananjaya has managed 284 runs at 31.6. When it comes to bowling, Jeevan picked up 19 wickets at an economy rate of 4.5, while Dhananjaya conceded runs at 5.7 runs per over, picking up a mere 8 wickets along the way.
Lasith Malinga has always performed well on the big stage, especially during World Cups where he is among the world’s best ever. Coming back into some form against Afghanistan, ‘Slinga’ will want to unleash his best against Pakistan.
Talking about the Pakistan quicks, Mohammad Aamir had just five wickets in the 14 innings leading up to the World Cup. However, in this World Cup alone, he has scalped five wickets from two innings and seems to have regained his groove.
In fact, he has most wickets (14) in England than any other foreign country’s he has bowled in. Wahab Riaz’s selection in the World Cup was criticized from all quarters, however, against England he proved that he can be deadly when he bowled back of a length, in which he had an economy rate of 4.7, picked up a wicket and conceded just the solitary boundary.
Considering Pakistan’s good show against England in their previous match, there will mostly be no changes to their XI, which means Imad Wasim will once again have to warm the bench.
PAK: Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c & wk), Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali
Sri Lanka on the other hand will perhaps make a change or two. Jeevan Mendis is a good option, having already sorted out their batting order in the game against Afghanistan.
SL: Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Isuru Udana, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Kusal Perera (wk), Kusal Mendis/Jeevan Mendis