Sri Lanka faltered early on in the first match with the Pakistan pacers removing four Lankan wickets before the team reached the three-figure mark © AFP
By Rajarshi Majumdar
Aug 25, 2014
The stage was set for Sri Lanka to repeat what they had done during the Test series to demolish Pakistan in the first One-Day International (ODI) at Hambantota. Lanka had put up enough runs on the board to unnerve Pakistan. A target of 276 were to be chased down in only 45 overs. The Lankans thought that they had the match in control but it was the wounded Pakistanis flourished in style. They defeated the Lankans by four wickets in a thriller. The Lankans will now face a must-win situation in the second ODI to stay alive in the three-match series unless rain plays spoilsport.
This Pakistani ODI squad looks a lot more settled than their Test squad. Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz made their way back into the squad. Ahmed Shehzad looked rock solid upfront as he proved his worth with a commendable 49 runs at the top of the order, which also set up the stage for the rest of the batsmen. Younis Khan played his first ODI after a gap of one and a half years. Much was expected of him but he failed to deliver. So he needs to step up as well.
The middle-order conundrum for Pakistan still remains as their skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal and Younis Khan looked out of touch. Umar Akmal did what he does the best. He gifted his wicket after a start. On the other hand, it was fascinating to see the young guns like Fawad Alam and Sohaib Maqsood taking the responsibility and helping Pakistan to cross the line. The way they constructed the run-chase, it never looked like that they are new to this game. Sri Lanka will be wary of these two youngsters for sure. They should also be wary of the Pakistani pacers Wahab, Irfan and Junaid Khan. These three generated terrific pace and movement off the pitch, that definitely troubled the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Sri Lanka on the other hand, have a balanced limited-overs squad, which can take on any attack in the world. But they need to get their basics right. They were too casual while they tried to defend their target in the first ODI at Hambantota. They thought that with the return of Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara, they will restrict the Pakistanis with ease. But it happened the other way round. Angelo Mathews got his calls wrong. He obviously had Malinga and Kulasekara up his sleeves for the slog overs. But Alam and Maqsood played them with no difficulty whatsoever. (See the Photo Gallery of the first ODI here)
Sri Lankan openers should give them a better start unlike the first ODI. Their fielding seems to be an issue as well. Pakistan fielders were right on the money from the very first ball. Sri Lanka will look to bounce back and square the series and Pakistan will look to carry their momentum into the second ODI. When these two Asian cricketing giants clash, the fans are always up for an exciting game of cricket. The Hambantota pitch will favour the batsmen once again and the rain Gods may spoil the party. Both the teams have enough reinforcements for a classic encounter.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), 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: Ahmed Shehzad,Sharjeel Khan,Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah-ul-Haq (C),Younis Khan, Umar Akmal,Fawad Alam, Sohaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Anwar Ali, Saeed Ajmal ,Mohammad Talha, Wahab Riaz, Zulfiqar Babar, Mohammad Irfan
Time: 9:00 GMT I 14:30 IST
Complete coverage of Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka here
(Rajarshi Majumdar is a reporter at CricketCountry. He played cricket for all age levels under the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for over 12 years. Apart from cricket he is an avid follower of football, supports Manchester United and a foodie at heart.)