Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in 3-T20I series    AFP
Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in 3-T20I series AFP

They fought hard and whitewashed Pakistan in Tests, that too in the the latter’s impregnable desert fortress UAE. Nonetheless, Sri Lanka fell flat in ODIs, going down 0-5. This is their third whitewash in the 2017. They were earlier dished out similar treatment by South Africa and India. Will the shortest and most unpredictable format help the Islanders end the tour on a high? Meanwhile, Pakistan are redeeming themselves in coloured clothings under Sarfraz Ahmed. They have forged a new relationship with the term ‘consistency’. They will like to continue their glorious run with a win in the T20I series opener.

Sri Lanka are without several key players: Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal, Chamara Kapugedera, Lasith Malinga. In addition, Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne have been in and out in shorter formats recently. A majority of players and staff members are missing the entire series by opting out of the series finale, at Lahore. After the drubbing in the ODIs, the team management have taken a bold step to back an inexperienced side. You cannot blame them for retaining the same squad for the entire series.

But then, this also provides a big chance to the inconsistent Thisara Perera to highlight his significance, both as player and skipper. Thisara will fall back upon the likes of Dimuth Gunathilaka, Sachith Pathirana, Lahiru Gamage, Seekkuge Prasanna, Vishwa Fernando, and Jeffrey Vandersay to challenge a well settled Pakistani line-up. Gamage and Vandersay had some impression in ODIs, and will be in good stead. Nonetheless, against an ever-improving Pakistan side, Sri Lanka won’t be at ease.

From Pakistan’s perspective, Sarfraz will continue to keep things simple. He has identified his key men in Imad Wasim, Rumman Raees and Fakhar Zaman. He also has seasoned campaigners in Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. He also has a wide pool of bowlers at his disposal, including Mohammad Aamer, who will return after missing the ODIs. The only headache for them will be to choose a bowling attack from a bunch of in-form seamers.

Form and records favour Pakistan. They have won 10 out of 15 T20Is versus Sri Lanka including their only match at Abu Dhabi. Sri Lanka’s only hope lies in the fact that they had beaten South Africa and Australia in their respective dens earlier in the year despite having relatively inexperienced squads. Hence, they can induce some competition.

Likely XIs:

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shahzad, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Aamer, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees.

Sri Lanka: Danushka Gunathilaka, Dilshan Munaweera, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Ashan Priyanjan, Thisara Perera (c), Seekkuge Prasanna, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Gamage, Vishwa Fernando.

Squads:

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf , Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Aamer, Rumman Raees, Usman Khan, Umar Amin.

Sri Lanka: Thisara Perera (c), Dilshan Munaweera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Ashan Priyanjan, Mahela Udawatte, Dasun Shanaka, Sachith Pathirana, Vikum Sanjaya, Lahiru Gamage, Seekkuge Prasanna, Vishwa Fernando, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Chaturanga de Silva, Minod Bhanuka.

Time: 21:30 IST