LAHORE    -   Twenty20 champions Pakistan are eager to continue their dominance in the shortest format of cricket against Sri Lanka, when they take on the visitors in T20 opener of the three-match series today (Saturday) here at historical Gaddafi Stadium.

The men in green just completed ODI series win 2-0 against very young Sri Lanka, whose 10 players opted out of Pakistan the our citing security concerns. On the other hand, full-strength Pakistan team is keen to get back to their dominating ways in T20 cricket, having suffered reversals in their last two series against South Africa and England, which were one off games.

Before the last two T20 defeats, Pakistan had enjoyed an 11-series winning streak, which brought them to the top of the ICC T20 rankings for teams. Now under new coach Misbah-ul-Haq, the same side will try to find out the ideal combination for the world event, which will take place in Australia in a year’s time.

Overall, Pakistan are favourites and it is being expected that they will fully dominate the T20 series. But in T20s, anything is possible, and Sri Lanka can bounce back and start challenging on the tour.

The hosts have strong batting line up in shape of consistent batsman Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail while their left-arm fast bowlers Muhammad Amir and Usman Shinwari, who played key roles in making their side the No 1 in the ICC T20 rankings, are in good form and once again they will be ready to deliver for their team.

They also made three changes in their squad as they preferred Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf to Abid Ali, Imam-ul-Haq and Muhammad Rizwan. Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed will also try to deliver in the shortest format as he kept on struggling with bat and couldn’t impress the selectors and home crowd with his performance in ODIs.

Sri Lanka, who are ranked eighth in T20 teams rankings, will try to give out their best to not only improve their rankings but also to make a difference with their better and improved performances in T20 series.

Dasun Shanaka-led Sri Lanka have finalized almost the same side, which they played in the ODIs. Their strengthen seems to be batting, as their batsman are capable of posting runs on the board while the area they need to work on is bowling department, as their bowlers kept on struggling in ODIs.

Captain Danushka Gunathilaka, who scored a century in the last ODI, will try to carry his form into the T20 format while Dasun Shanaka, set to captain Sri Lanka for the first time, will be hoping for an impressive start to his leadership career. Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha and Lakshan Sandakan will be key with the ball as Sri Lanka will be hoping for a collective effort to catch Pakistan by surprise.

The hosts have lost just one out of the six T20s, they have played in Lahore while Sri Lanka lost the only match they have played at the venue batting second. The forecast looks promising for a full contest in the opening T20.

Pakistan has just hosted the ODIs in Karachi smoothly so far and the hosts are still keen to host the T20s in a befitting manner. The visitors have been provided the best security so far and they will continue to enjoy it till they depart for their homeland. It is hoped that the cricket-crazy nation will fully enjoy the exciting moments of T20 cricket at historical Gaddafi Stadium.

SQUADS:

PAKISTAN: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Babar Azam, Ahmed Shehzad, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, M Aamir, M Hasnain, M Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari and Wahab Riaz.

SRI LANKA: Dasun Shanaka (capt), Danushka Gunathileka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Perera, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana.