DAMBULLA- Pakistan are all set to take on Sri Lanka in the final clash today (Saturday) here at the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium. The do-and-die third ODI is set to be the series decider with the both teams winning a game each so far.
After the Test series defeat, the green shirts were off to flying start in the first ODI as they beat Lankan Tigers by four wickets under the D/L method at Hambantota. In the absence of Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan bowling was punished severely by Lankans and while the batsmen also disappointed except Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam and Ahmad Shahzad. In the second ODI, the hosts made a good comeback and beat the men in green by 77 runs at the same ground.
Saeed Ajmal, which is Pakistan’s trump card, can play the third ODI and if he plays, Pakistan team will certainly get advantage of him and can beat Sri Lanka to win the series. Umar Akmal proved himself flopped in not only Tests where he can be replaced with in-form Safraz in the next series but he also didn’t deliver in the ODIs as he hardly scored 16 runs in both the ODIs. If he doesn’t deliver in the third ODI, he can be be given rest for the next series.
Both the ODIs exposed the Pakistan’s middle-order, including their skipper Misbahul Haq, which failed miserably in both the matches. Their run-rate was also was not so good that which might help the team earn a victory. The team cannot rely on Fawad Alam and Sohaib Maqsood to finish things off in every match. Experienced Younus Khan was not available for the second game as he flew back to Pakistan to attend the funeral of his nephew and he will also not play the third ODI. Sharjeel Khan replaced the veteran player and opened the innings along with Ahmad Shahzad, but failed to leave a mark. The national team definitely missed the presence of magical spinner Saeed Ajmal in both the ODIs.
The Sri Lankan pacers are not in excellent form as they were not much of help in this series so far. Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara did not have much of impacts on the Pakistani batsmen either. It were spinners who took the responsibility and did their job for the hosts in the second ODI. Rangana Herath and Seekkuge Prasanna came in handy with their orthodox spin and took wickets at crucial moments. Sri Lankan openers have left them in a spot of bother as they failed abjectly in the series so far. Their middle order, with likes of the mighty trio Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews, is reliable as if one fails the other delivers. Mathews and Jayawardene have rescued the Lankan innings twice in this series and they both have been in good form, which can trouble the Pakistanis at any moment in the match. Thisara Perera also proved his mettle and was adjudged the man of the match for the second ODI with his superb all-round performance.
Both the teams have enough reinforcements to make it into a classic final. The fans can only hope that rains will not hamper the classic final between these two Asian cricketing giants.
Dambulla Stadium was built in 2000 and 16,800 spectators can enjoy the international matches here. The stadium has floodlight facility as well. The first ever ODI played here was between Sri Lanka and England in May 2001 while the last ODI was played between Sri Lanka and New Zealand in November 2013.
Pakistan played their last match in this stadium in May 2010 against Bangladesh. This was a historic and record-breaking match as the green shirts made the highest total of 385-7 with star all-rounder Shahid Afridi scoring sparkling 124 runs off just 60 deliveries. It is a very lucky ground for Afridi, who smashed 124 and 109 runs in his last two innings against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively.
But on the other hand, this ground proved unlucky for Pakistan team as in its last six encounters against Sri Lanka, they won just one and lost five. In all, Pakistan played 11 matches at this ground and they managed to win only three. Pakistan played their last match against Sri Lanka here in June 2010 which they lost by 16 runs.
TOP PERFORMERS OF ODI SERIES
Wahab Riaz remained the top bowler in this ODI series as he grabbed seven wickets in two ODIs and it is likely he may complete his 10-wicket haul. Sri Lanka’s Perera is at number two with five wickets followed by M Hafeez with four wickets.
With classic 182 (93+89) runs, Mathews is on top in the top batsmen list followed by Mahela Jayawardene 130 (63+67). Ahmad Shahzad comes at number three with his 105 (49+56) runs while Fawad Alam at number four with 92 (62+30) runs.
SRI LANKA: Angelo Mathews (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Seekuge Prasanna, Suraj Randiv, Thisara Perera.
PAKISTAN: Ahmad Shahzad, Sharjeel Khan, M Hafeez, Misbahul Haq (capt),Younus Khan, Umar Akmal, Fawad Alam, Sohaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Anwar Ali, Saeed Ajmal, M Talha, Wahab Riaz, Zulfiqar Babar, M Irfan.