An injury-hit Pakistan will have the tough task of taming a high-spirited Sri Lanka when they lock horns in a Super 4 match here on Thursday for a place in the Asia Cup final.
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have two points and the winner of the virtual knock-out game will progress to the final on September 17.
India have already secured a place in the summit clash after they defeated Sri Lanka by 41 runs in a Super Four game on Tuesday. Rohit Sharma’s men lead the table with four points.
However, Pakistan will have more lines on their forehead ahead of their crunch game against the Lankans.
In all probability, they will not be able to summon pacers Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah as both of them have been rendered doubtful with respective injuries.
Pakistan have added Shahnawaz Dahani and Zaman Khan, a 22-year-old slinger pacer who can hit 150 kmph clicks, as back-ups for the remainder of Asia Cup.
But that is just one part of their bag of worries. Pakistan batting is yet to hit the top gear in the tournament, except a 342 for six against minnows Nepal in the Asia Cup opener at Multan.
However, largely they are dependent on their openers – Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq – and captain Babar Azam for big runs.
They need some runs from the likes of Mohammad Rizwan and Salman Agha, and urgently too.
Iftikhar Ahmed showed his big-hitting prowess with a blistering hundred against Nepal, but he needs to do that more consistently against better oppositions.
Sri Lanka are definitely one of them. Pakistan had defeated them by seven wickets in a league match but the past will not hold for anything on the morrow.
While defeating Bangladesh and stretching India, the Lankans under Dasun Shanaka have shown that they are not mere pushovers despite the absence of some first-choice players.
Sri Lanka too were hit hard by injuries in the run-up to the tournament as key players like Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara were ruled out.
It has forced them to field a young side lacking in experience and exposure but players such as Dunith Wellalage, Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana have come up with some impressive efforts in the tournament.
That said the home side will hope for some more consistency from their pacers – particularly from Kasun Rajitha, who has taken four wickets from as many matches but gave away nearly six runs an over in all the games.
So, Lanka might hope for their spinners to come to party once again as they were exemplary against India on a pitch that offered plenty of turn and grip.
They had cut through India’s strong top-order with left-arm spinner Wellalage taking five wickets.
Hence, Lanka could offer a similar pitch to Pakistan as it can also nullify their pace battery led by left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Saud Shakeel, Tayyab Tahir (travelling reserve). Shahnawaz Dahani, Zaman Khan (back-ups for injured Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah).
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanaka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis (vice-captain), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Matheesha Pathirana, Kasun Rajitha, Dushan Hemantha, Binura Fernando, Pramod Madushan.
Match starts 3 PM IST.