Embattled Sri Lanka seek inspiration to improve wretched 2017

Match facts

October 26, 2017
Start time 2000 local (16:00 GMT)

Big Picture

At this point of the series, even traditionalists can’t wait for the T20 series. After a one-sided ODI series that seemed to stretch out interminably, the focus now turns to a three-match T20 series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Tests saw a clean sweep for Sri Lanka, while Pakistan avenged the loss in a comprehensive 5-0 whitewash in the ODIs.

Sri Lanka have had a dismal ODI record this year, but their T20 record in 2017 has been much more impressive. They began the year with two away series wins – in South Africa and Australia, no less – and boast a winning record over the year, having won five of nine games. They will look to make that count to ensure they bookend the tour with positive memories to dull the pain of the ODI thrashing.

Complicating things, however, are the peculiar scheduling arrangements of this series. With the third T20 to be held in Lahore, the Sri Lankan management have decided to only select players willing to travel to Pakistan. That means Sri Lanka will be without Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella and Akila Dananjaya for the T20s.

That means a new-look Sri Lanka gear up for the series, while Pakistan have their full squad at their disposal. That, and recent form, makes the Pakistan firm favourites, but with T20 cricket, predictions are a thankless task.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan WLWWL

In the spotlight

Babar Azam‘s T20 form is every bit as impressive as in ODIs. Averaging 54, he has never been dismissed in single figures in the format. This ability to feel comfortable in a high-pressure format is part of his growing appeal and reputation. Sri Lanka’s captain this series Thisara Perera will know all about that, given he was part of the World XI that toured Pakistan last month. Babar Azam was the leading run-scorer over the tour and won Man-of-the-series.

Thisara Perera takes over the captaincy reins in difficult times for his country. What bodes well for him is his game is most suited to the T20 format. But his experience will be required in more ways than one, especially in the Lahore T20, as he was the only Sri Lankan in the World XI side.

Team news

Usman Khan, after his five-for in the fifth ODI, may had done enough to secure a consistent run, beating off competition from Rumman Raees. Imam-ul-Haq impressed in the ODIs, but Ahmed Shehzad got big runs against the World XI, and could return.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Shadab Khan, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Usman Khan

Sri Lanka’s T20 squad was put together hurriedly, and they might not be sure of their best XI yet.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dilshan Munaweera, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 4 Mahela Udawatte, 5 Ashan Priyanjan, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Seekkuge Prasanna, 8 Thisara Perera (capt.), 9 Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Jeffrey Vandersay, 11 Lahiru Gamage

Pitch and conditions

Dew could play a role in Abu Dhabi, but as it could impact both teams since it’s a night game. The slow surface is likely to assist spin bowlers.

Stats and trivia

  • Thisara Perera has played more T20Is (60) than the rest of the 16-man Sri Lankan squad put together (47). Eleven players in the squad are yet to make their T20I debut

  • Abu Dhabi doesn’t have a reputation for particularly high scores, but it does boast one of the highest totals in T20I cricket. That came in a World T20 qualifier in 2013 when Ireland amassed 225 against Afghanistan

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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