After the first ODI was washed out, cricket finally returned to Karachi on Monday and Pakistan celebrated it in some fashion as they outclassed Sri Lanka by 67 runs in the second encounter to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. The home team will now try to seal the series when they take on a depleted and inexperienced Sri Lankan side in the final ODI on Wednesday (October 2) at the same venue.
Almost everything worked for Pakistan on Monday. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq got them off to a solid start before Babar Azam once again showed his class and scored a free-flowing century. Haris Sohail and Iftikhar Ahmed played their part as Pakistan posted 305 for 7 in their 50 overs.
That’s when Usman Shinwari took over and dismantled Sri Lanka’s top order, picking up his maiden five-wicket haul in international cricket. The only time Sri Lanka showed some fight was when Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka added 177 runs for the sixth wicket.
Pakistan rely heavily on their top four and not one of them disappointed in the second match. Babar looked head and shoulders above the rest and crafted his 11th ODI century with the utmost ease. Babar achieved the milestone in only 71 innings, only behind Hashim Amla (64) and Quinton de Kock (65) in the history of ODI cricket. He now has more ODI hundreds than any Pakistani apart from Saeed Anwar and Mohammad Yousuf.
He is only the fifth batsman after Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja to amass over 1000 runs in this format in 2019. He averages over 78 in the nine innings that he has played in coloured clothing in Pakistan. Sri Lanka will have to get rid of him early if they want to put any pressure on Pakistan. Apart from him, Imam and Sohail are the other two batsmen who average close to 50 this year.
In Sarfaraz Ahmed, Iftikhar and Imad, Pakistan also have decent batters who can hit big shots in the last few overs. In fact, Imad has been in amazing form this year. The all-rounder mostly bats down the order and has slammed 472 runs at an average of 47.20 and strike rate of 131.11 in 2019.
Pakistan however will be slightly worried about the form of their spinners. While the likes of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari, and Wahab Riaz to an extent, has been amongst wickets this year, Shadab Khan and Imad haven’t had a very good year so far. While Shadab is operating at an average of over 40, Imad’s average is 66. Both spinners picked up three wickets between them in the second ODI but weren’t able to build on the pressure that was created by the Pakistani pace attack.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will be hoping to level the series but it will be a tall task against a Pakistani team brimming with confidence. The islanders haven’t beaten Pakistan in the last seven ODIs and the onus will be on skipper Lahiru Thirimanne in the absence of other experienced campaigners. The left-hander is the only one from the squad who has played over 100 ODIs, while Nuwan Pardeep comes second in the list with just 41 ODIs to his name.
Jayasuriya (96) and Shanaka (68) were the only two batsmen who showed some intent in the chase or else Sri Lanka could have been bundled out way below 100. The likes of Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando and Oshada Fernando are all talented and this final ODI will give them one more opportunity to prove their worth at this level.
In the bowling department, the visitors can bring in someone like Lakshan Sandakan to add more variety to their attack. On paper, Sri Lanka are no match to Pakistan but the Islanders are often known for punching above their weight and that’s something they will have to do on Wednesday.
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a lot to play for. Pakistan are under new management and the road ahead is only going to get tougher and tougher, and they would like to win this one for the home crowd against a side who’s inexperienced but a win here would serve as a perfect confidence booster for them.
The weather is expected to be bright and sunny on Wednesday and we will get a full game.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hasnain, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Usman Khan Shinwari, Wahab Riaz.
Sri Lanka: Lahiru Thirimanne (c), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Minod Bhanuka, Angelo Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara.