It was a positive sign to see the new talent leading from the front in a Pakistan victory. Fawad Alam (left) and Sohaib Maqsood led the team to a win in the first ODI © AFP
With Pakistan leading the series 1-0, Amit Banerjee takes a look at the possible XI that skipper Misbah-ul-Haq may field for the second game.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka take the field after the visitors managed to pull off a spectacular win against the Lankans in the series opener on Saturday. Pakistan were 106 for five at one stage before Sohaib Maqsood and Fawad Alam stitched a 147-run partnership to guide them home.
Younis Khan is not playing in the second One-Day International (ODI), having returned to Pakistan temporarily to attend his nephew’s funeral. With the stalwart missing from the roster, who’s going to fill the void for the remaining games?
Here’s the likely XI for the second ODI at Hambantota in the batting order.
Ahmed Shehzad: The dashing opener missed out on a well-deserved half-century in the first game and will look to make amends in the second one. The Sri Lankan bowlers will surely look to remove him early in order to prevent Pakistan getting a good start.
Mohammed Hafeez: The 33 year-old batsman has came back from an outing in the recently-concluded Caribbean Premier League and his experience in the slam-bang format should help in him giving his side a quick start in Pakistan’s innings.
Sharjeel Khan: With Younis back in his native country after receiving the tragic news of his nephew’s death, Sharjeel Khan is expected to take his place. Though Sharjeel did not have a very good series with the bat with an average of 20.20 during Pakistan’s previous bilateral series against the same opponent, he can be dangerous given the support that the pitch is offering for batsmen.
Umar Akmal (Wicket-keeper): Akmal was handy with the gloves in the previous game, managing to effect a run-out and take a catch. His strike rate and 87.23 along with an average of 38 makes him a player which the opposition cannot afford to ignore, atleast in the shorter format. But his habit of gifting his wickets away has often hurt his own team.
Misbah-ul-Haq (C): Though the Pakistani skipper’s dismissal on 13 during the first game sent his team in to the dire straits and extended his poor run with the bat, which has been going on for quite some time now, a career average of 44.07 is one that will keep any bowler from brushing him aside, given how Misbah has played a crucial role in many a memorable Pakistani chase in the past and will be expected to do the same for the remainder of the series.
Fawad Alam: One of the heroes from the first game, Alam managed to break his dry run with the bat with a fabulous 61-ball 62 that was laced with seven boundaries. Alam had cemented his spot in the side with a patient 114, which unfortunately went in vain in the Asia Cup final this year. With the luck in his favour now, he will be expected to perform with the bat as well as the ball in suitable conditions in the second game.
Sohaib Maqsood: The other hero from the first ODI. A 73-ball 89 at a strike rate of 121.91 was vital in blowing the opposition away in the opening game of the series, in which the visitors were trailing at a score of 106 for five. Maqsood has now made himself set for the series and a couple of more suck knocks will surely confirm his berth in the World Cup squad.
Shahid Afridi: With the hard-hitting all-rounder choosing to bat down the order, Afridi will play the role of the finisher as well as a last resort for the Pakistanis during this series. Afridi hit a couple of boundaries during his 10-ball 14 and remained unbeaten alongside Maqsood as the visitors managed to reach the finish line in the penultimate ball of the match.
Wahab Riaz: Riaz has shown consistency with the ball in the recent past, having grabbed six wickets in the second Test against Sri Lanka at SSC earlier in the tour. A gifted swinger of the ball, he is expected to build on to the three scalps that he had obtained in the series opener.
Mohammad Irfan: The seven-footer is easily one of the most intimidating players on the field and is expected to make early inroads in to the opposition batting order. His ability to generate a decent bounce, partly due to his height, will help make the Lankan batsmen uneasy.
Junaid Khan: Junaid had a very forgettable outing in the opening game of the series, conceding 75 runs without a wicket from nine overs. He will however, be given a couple of chances during this series. Junaid was recently hospitalised after getting hit on the jaw by a Dhammika Prasad-bouncer during the second Test in Colombo. He is till one of their best pacer and will be eager to make amends.
Complete coverage of Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka here
(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, traveling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)