COLOMBO - Pakistan will have their eyes trained on a rare series victory against Sri Lanka when the teams lock horns in the fourth One-Day International at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Wednesday (July 22). Under the leadership of Azhar Ali, Pakistan, who last won a series in Sri Lanka in 2006, are 2-1 up in the five-match series and will be eager to add to their Test success. Pakistan had won the three-Test series 2-1.

Azhar has blunted Sri Lanka’s efforts by putting his resources to good use. Most of all, the skipper has been able to get the most out of Mohammad Hafeez. Apart from a low score in the second ODI which Pakistan lost by two wickets, Hafeez has been in top form, with 166 runs thus far and six wickets, four of which came in the first game. However, Pakistan will have to make do without his services with the ball after the International Cricket Council banned the offspinner from bowling for 12 months.

Hafeez came up with a well-paced 54 in the third game at the same venue, and once Pakistan amassed 316 for 4, Yasir Shah stepped to the plate with a four-wicket haul with his legspin. He was ably supported by Immad Wasim, the debutant left-arm spinner who finished with two wickets. On the pace front, M Irfan, Anwar Ali and Rahat Ali have been firing in unison, but it’s the batting unit that has truly clicked for the visitors. Right at the top, Azhar and Ahmed Shehzad have provided Pakistan with two half-century opening stands in back-to-back innings. The middle order, comprising Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, has been able to capitalise on the base. Mohammad Rizwan has been a revelation with the bat, lending ammo to Pakistan’s arsenal.

match starts at 2:00 pm

The story isn’t as rosy for Angelo Mathews-led Sri Lanka. All of their top and middle-order batsmen have got starts but haven’t been able to carry on consistently. Clearly, their batting is feeling the absence of the retired pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. As if the batting concerns aren’t troubling enough, Sri Lanka’s bowling has also left a lot to be desired. Lalith Malinga doesn’t seem to possess the same speed or accuracy since returning from surgery, denting Sri Lanka’s attack severely. The hosts have tried to build a consistent bowling unit around the ageing seamer but they haven’t been successful.

Suranga Lakmal and Seekugge Prasanna were left out for Nuwan Pradeep and Sachith Pathirana after the first ODI but the duo hasn’t been able to deliver. While Pradeep has been sporadic, Pathirana showed glimpses of settling into international cricket with an improved performance in the third ODI. Sri Lanka’s attack has not been able to staunch the flow of runs either, and it hasn’t helped their cause that the fielding hasn’t lived up to its usual high standards. Pakistan have been the better side thus far but Sri Lanka have shown in the past that they can fight back. What remains to be seen is which of the two will bring their A game to the Premadasa on Wednesday.


PAKISTAN: Azhar Ali (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, M Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Anwar Ali, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, M Irfan, Asad Shafiq, Mukhtar Ahmed, Bilal Asif, Immad Wasim, Ehsan Adil.

SRI LANKA: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Ashan Priyanjan, Sachithra Senanayake, Sachith Pathirana.