After taking a pounding in the first T20 International (T20I), Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in the second game of the series at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore on Monday. The 64-run in the first T20I was Sri Lanka’s first victory in six years over Pakistan in the shortest format of the game. What’s more is that they did it without any of their stars including their captain Lasith Malinga, which is without doubt a commendable effort.
Having comprehensively won the One-Day International (ODI) series, Pakistan were looking to emulate the same against the second-string Sri Lankan side. But the visitors put on a commendable all-round show to deny Pakistan and go 1-0 up.
There were useful contributions from Sri Lanka’s top-order with Danushka Gunathilaka (57), Avishka Fernando (33) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (32) doing the bulk of the scoring. And with the ball, it was Isuru Udana and Nuwan Pradeep who broke the back of Pakistan’s batting. They were also clinical in the field.
Pakistan need to bounce back quickly. They would be happy with the way they restricted Sri Lanka to a modest total, but they will be disappointed with their batsmen, who did not show any intent. Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad were dismissed for just four runs between them on their return and will have to make a much bigger contribution this time around. It was surprising to see Usman Shinwari not given a go in this match after he bowled quite well in the ODI series. Playing him in place of Faheem Ashraf might not be such a bad idea.
On the batting front, Pakistan look a decent side, and it will be a question of clicking as an unit and putting together a good performance. While it would be unfair to drop either Shehzad or Akmal after just one failure, we might see Haris Sohail returning to the XI instead of Akmal. Sohail, in his previous T20I innings, scored a fifty against England.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will not want to change a winning combination. A similar performance in this game will give them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Winning the toss and batting first will be key once again as the pitch tends to slow down and grip a bit more in the second innings. While Pakistan wanted to chase in the first T20I keeping in mind the dew factor, Sri Lanka proved them wrong by bowling extremely well under the lights. Pakistan have been much better when they have batted first at the Gaddafi Stadium, which is why Sarfaraz Ahmed’s decision to field first in the first T20I was a tad surprising.
Before losing their previous two series against South Africa and England (an one-off match), Pakistan had won 11 consecutive series, which took them to the top of the ICC T20I rankings. They will have to rediscover that form and look for ways to win the remaining two matches in the series.
As far as Sri Lanka are concerned, they will look to ensure that they can win a series against the top-ranked side without their star players.
Pakistan: Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Umar Akmal/Haris Sohail, Asif Ali, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c & wk), Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf/Usman Shinwari, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain
Sri Lanka: Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Dasun Shanaka (c), Isuru Udana, Lakshan Sandakan, Wanindu Hasaranga, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep