After an ODI series win for Pakistan, a historic one as it was just the second 50-over international series in the subcontinental country in a decade, Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan will move from Karachi to Lahore for the T20I series. Surprisingly, the crowds in Karachi were lesser than expected, given that ODIs were hosted in the city for the first time in 10 years, but things might be different for the Lahore leg of the tour owing to the popularity of the shortest format on the back of the Pakistan Super League and Pakistan’s magnificent record in the format.
Since 2018, Pakistan have been one of the most successful T20I sides, only behind Afghanistan in terms of win percentage. On the other hand, T20Is have been Sri Lanka’s weakest format - winning only 33.2 percent of their games since 2018 as compared to 34.2 percent in ODIs and 38.8 percent in Tests.
Pakistan have won 10 out of their last 11 T20I series (more than one game in the series). Ranked number one in the format, Pakistan have climbed to the top of the ladder on the back of their bowling. The Sarfaraz Ahmed-led side find themselves in the top two in each of the three main criteria of T20I bowling. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are in the bottom half.
On the batting front, Pakistan are once again right up there, matching batting giants like India and England in various aspects of the game. Sri Lanka again lie low in the table which speaks about the daylight between the two sides at the moment.
Babar Azam, recently elevated to vice-captaincy, has been the major contributor to Pakistan’s batting and has been the most prolific batsman in T20Is.
Another key aspect that widens the gulf between the two sides is the availability of players. The new Pakistan selection committee, led by Misbah Ul Haq, has welcomed Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal back into the squad. Their bowling reserves consists of spinners like Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz and left-arm pacers of the calibre of Wahab Riaz, Usman Shinwari and Mohammad Amir along with the raw pace of Mohammad Hasnain. It is such a well-packed unit that seam bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, who has missed only one T20I for Pakistan since 2018, might not even get a look in.
In the opposition camp, as mentioned earlier, Sri Lanka will be missing a major chunk of their first-choice players. Consequently, their 16-man squad possess the experience of playing 128 T20Is which appears merely significant in comparison to the experience held by the current Pakistan squad - 422 T20Is. None of the Lankans’ top four run-scorers with the bat are a part of their current squad.
However, the most notable absence will be that of Malinga, who still at the age of 36, holds the ability of breaking the back of any batting line-up as he showed with a hat-trick against New Zealand, their only victory in a 2-1 series defeat at home last month.
Despite their recent struggles in the T20I arena, the Lankans will hope to see some light at the end of the tunnel. They will take heart from the fight they showed in the ODI series where they gave Pakistan jitters at various moments in the two completed ODIs.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari
Sri Lanka: Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep