Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 1st T20I: Preview: Men in Green look to continue dominance; visitors chase their maiden win on the tour

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 1st T20I: Preview: Men in Green look to continue dominance; visitors chase their maiden win on the tour

Can Dasun Shanaka turn Lanka's fortunes in the ongoing tour?

Wahab Riaz of Pakistan. (Photo by Alan Martin/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The Sri Lanka tour of Pakistan rolls on. After an action-packed One-day series; one that Pakistan won 2-0, the focus now shifts to the extravaganza of Twenty20 Cricket. The first of the three T20Is will be played on Saturday, October 05 at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Their struggles in Tests and ODIs aside, it has to be said that Pakistan has been the most consistent T20I side in the world.

They have the most victories in all T20Is, 90 out of 143, the best W/L ratio for sides who played more than 100 T20Is- 1.8. But since the 2016 World T20 debacle in India, the real resurgence of Pakistan T20I side began. While the Pakistan Super League has helped brilliantly in unleashing precious talents like Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, the leadership of Sarfaraz Ahmed and former coach Mickey Arthur played a huge role in making them the No.1 ranked side in the world.

Since the last World T20 in India, Pakistan has dropped just five matches and their W/L ratio of 4.285 is second only to Afghanistan’s 4.4, although the latter has played ten matches fewer (27) than the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led unit (37). They’ll now face a side who has had a 180-degree turn in their fortunes as compared to them.

Sri Lankan cricket has been on a free-fall since the retirements of greats like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan. And, ironically, it is the shorter format of the game where they have struggled the most. In 33 T20Is since the last World T20, Sri Lanka have managed just 10 victories. To make matters worse, they’ll miss the chief orchestrator, Lasith Malinga, of their latest win when they take on a side who they last beat in a Twenty20 way back in 2013.

Team Combination

Pakistan

Pakistan recalled discarded internationals Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad for the T20I series after three years and 16 months respectively. With Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman spearheading the opening spot, it is unlikely that Shahzad will get a place in the playing XI. However, Umar Akmal is likely to slot-in back into the middle-order which will boast of Haris Sohail, who is coming off a match-winning knock in the last ODI.

Iftikhar Ahmed gave a great account of his precious hitting skills, especially under intense pressure in the last game. He might just pip Asif Ali for the all-rounder’s spot. The bowling pretty much picks themselves. Wahab Riaz’s spot might come in for discussion. The left-hander conceded at 8 rpo in the last game and could possibly make way for Mohammad Hasnain. Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan’s role will be key as well. 

Probable XI

Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed/Asif Ali, Umar Akmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed (C & WK), Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz/Mohammad Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari

Sri Lanka

Danushka Gunathilaka, Shehan Jayasuriya and skipper Dasun Shanaka were the stand-out performers for Sri Lanka in the one-day series. While Gunathilaka scored an imperious 133 in the last game, Jayasuriya and Shanaka notched one of the greatest rearguard stand after their top-order was blown away by Usman Shinwari in the second ODI.

Avishka Fernando and Oshada Fernando did not have the best of the One-day series and the youngsters would be hoping to make amends in the T20Is. Sri Lanka will miss their talisman skipper Malinga in the bowling department and in his absence the onus will be on Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep and Isuru Udana to spearhead the unit.

Probable XI

Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka (C), Minod Bhanuka (wk), Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha/Lahiru Kumara

Focus will be on

Babar Azam (Pakistan)

1247 runs in 30 T20Is at an average of 54.22, 151 runs in 3 T20Is at an average of 50.33, No.1 ranked T20I batsmen in the world, 578  runs at 52.55 in 13 T20s for Somerset- the most in the 2019 Vitality Blast, T20I average of 50 plus in T20Is in 2019 with a top score of 90. Need I say more? All eyes will be on Babar tomorrow. They always are.

Danushka Gunathilaka (Sri Lanka)

Gunathilaka played with great maturity in the last ODI. The left-hander scored a nonchalant 133 and with the likes if Avishka Fernando and Oshada Fernando not in the best of form, he will once again be the key for the Lankan batting tomorrow. He knows the art of shifting gears as per the situation and that makes him a crucial member of the lineup. 

Head to Head

Overall

Matches – 18 | Pakistan won – 13 | Sri Lanka won – 5 | N/R- 0

In Pakistan

Matches – 1| Pakistan won – 1 | Sri Lanka- 0| N/R- 0

Stat Attack

4.285: Pakistan’s W/L ratio since the last World T20 in India. In 37 games, the Sarfaraz Ahmed-led unit has dropped just seven games.

13 December 2013: The last time Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in a T20I. Since then, they have proceeded to lose six games on the bounce.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony SIX

Online– Sony LIV

Match Timings – 18:30 local time, 19:00 IST (13:30 PM GMT)