Sri Lanka will look to avenge Champions Trophy loss © Getty Images
Sri Lanka will look to avenge Champions Trophy loss © Getty Images

After a thrilling two-Test series, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will square off in a five-ODI series. Both sides will resume from where they left in the virtual quarter-final of ICC Champions Trophy at Cardiff. Pakistan won the nail biter by 3 wickets before being crowned as eventual champions. Sri Lanka will like to settle scores especially after their heroics in the Test series. Sarfraz Ahmed and co. are favourties but can be stunned by a regrouped Sri Lanka under Upul Tharanga, resuming from a brief break.

Well, Pakistan and consistency?

Pakistan will like no slip-ups after resurrecting their 50-over fortunes. Sarfraz sounds confident about captaining in limited-overs. He said,”In ODIs our team is balanced and record is very good. We will have some senior players returning and I hope we’ll play better cricket there.”

But there needs no introduction on Pakistan’s consistency with being ‘inconsistent.’ From January 5 2016, they have won and lost 12 encounters.

But…

Pakistan were ranked No. 8 when they entered Champions Trophy in England. Before that, their ploys were termed ‘outdated’. They didn’t play the decisive middle-overs well. There were plenty of dot balls in between, minimal strike rotation, an unready skipper in Azhar Ali, unimpressive opening duo and faltering lower-order. Nonetheless, the tables turned when Mickey Arthur was joined by Sarfraz. So, is it the start of something special?

How did the script change?

Pakistan addressed the right issues and worked towards them. Few good wins helped, and they sealed their maiden Champions Trophy. Suddenly, the same unit beams confidence and looks a well-oiled side to challenge any team on their day. Their honest communications, significance to fitness, change in personnel and newly-attained freedom to express has created effective results. Now that everything has been attained, they will like to work on their consistency, a herculean task in shorter formats.

Take forward the Test-momentum, Sri Lanka!

On the other hand, Sri Lanka are in disarray. Since January, 5 2016, they have won only 10 out of 39 ODIs, losing 25. Their last 10 ODIs read: L, L, L, L, L, L, L, W, W, L.

Sri Lanka have lost their last 7 ODIs. As a result, they are languishing at the 8th spot in ICC ODI rankings. Their last victory against a top side came against India on June 8. It cannot get any worse. So, will things get better from now on? Like it happened in the Test series? Well, Tharanga and co. need to take a leaf from their counterparts. They have to stick with their key players, give them enough breathing space and remain consistent with the bat. Having failed to register 250 in the 5 ODIs versus India, they are well aware of their flaws.

While Pakistan will play to work on their consistency, having attained some form. Sri Lanka will be eyeing to start afresh. They will like to repeat from what Pakistan did in the last ICC event.

Likely XIs

Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shahzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Imad Wasim, Haris Sohail/Rumaan Raees, Shabad Khan, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (c), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Chamara Kapugedra, Milinda Siriwardene, Akila Dhananjaya, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Suranga Lakmal

What numbers say

- Pakistan have a better head-to-head record, winning 85 and losing 58.

- At UAE, Pakistan have won 28 out of 48 ODIs versus Sri Lanka.

- Overall in neutral venues, Pakistan continue to dominate. They have won 51 out of 79 encounters against visitors.

Squads:

Pakistan: Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(c & wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Fahim Ashraf , Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Usman Khan

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay

Time: 16:30 IST