Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 3rd T20I: Preview: Can hosts avert the ignominy of a series whitewash or will Lankans script history?

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 3rd T20I: Preview: Can hosts avert the ignominy of a series whitewash or will Lankans script history?

It is clear that Pakistan’s batting is overdependent on Babar Azam.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

With nothing to lose and almost everything to gain, the Sri Lankans scripted a sensational upset, beating the No.1 side by 64 and 35 runs in the first two T20Is to clinch the 3-match T20I series by 2-0. If Danushka Gunathilaka’s 57 and Nuwan Pradeep & Isuru Udana’s three-wicket-haul were the cornerstone of their win in the first game, it was the turn of Bhanuka Rajapaksa to show his precocious talent.

After scoring a 22-ball 32 in the first match, Rajapaksa backed it up with an imperious 48-ball 77-run innings which included 4 fours and six 6s- to spearhead the Lankan’s total to an eventual match-winning 6-182 in 20 overs. While Sri Lanka has unearthed quite a few talents in this series, one looks at the Pakistan line-up and you’ll see where the problem lies.

Bringing back tried-and-tested failures like Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal and benching your in-form players like Fakhar Zaman [in the first game], Iftikhar Ahmed, who scored 25 in the first match for the second game and Haris Sohail in both matches, goes to show their planning and management. Pakistan’s bowling too has been way under par this series and at the heart of it is the underperformance of spinner Shadab Khan. Khan has gone in excess of eight runs in both games and has just two wickets to show. 

With just a solitary win in six games this year, Pakistan needs to address their freefall in T20I cricket, but for that Misbah and Sarfaraz will have sort out their team selections. Till they embrace mediocrity and ignore the in-form players in favor of past reputations, nothing will change.

Team Combinations

Pakistan:

The hosts brought back Fakhar Zaman in the last game after inexplicably dropping him in the first T20I. However, the left-hander played a bad shot and got out for just 6. Pakistan’s problem thus far in this series has been their misfiring opening combination. Babar Azam, after having scored that brilliant hundred in the second ODI, hasn’t registered a score of substance since then. His scores in the T20Is read: 13 & 3. With their middle-order in a disarray, the onus will be on Babar and Fakhar to give their team an ideal platform to build on.

And, what about the middle-order? Surely Umar Akmal, after having registered back-to-back golden ducks will have to make way for Harish Sohail? Or will he? Considering Sarfaraz and Misbah have thrown their weight behind the under-fire duo of Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they get another chance tomorrow. 

As far as the bowling is concerned, Pakistan was exposed in both the departments. While Shadab Khan has been unable to provide them with breakthroughs in the middle-overs, the fast bowlers too have been guilty of leaking runs and not taking enough wickets up-front. Will Usman Shinwari and Mohamamd Nawaz get a look-in tomorrow? We’ll have to wait and see.

Probable XI:

Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Ahmed Shahzad, Umar Akmal/Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed [c & wk], Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz/Usman Shinwari, Shadab Khan/Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Mohamad Hasnain

Bench: Iftikhar Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf

Sri Lanka

As for Sri Lanka, why change something which ain’t broken? Danushka Gunathilaka and Avishka Fernando will open the batting while the middle-order will be spearheaded by Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shehan Jayasuriya, and skipper Dasun Shanaka.

Similarly, the bowling unit will be led by the leader wicket-taker of the series, Nuwan Pradeep [7 wickets], Wanindu Hasaranga [5 wickets] and Isuru Udana [5 wickets].

Probable XI:

Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka [c], Minod Bhanuka [wk], Isuru Udana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep

Bench: Oshada Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Perera, Lahiru Madushanka, Lahiru Kumara

The focus will be on:

Babar Azam (PAK): In the post-match conference, this is what Misbah-ul-Haq said while lamenting on his teams’ batting effort in the series. “We became number 1 in the T20I rankings but if you dig deeper, what has been our strength mostly – it’s been due to Babar Azam’s runs and he didn’t score in two games and we’ve been exposed.”

It is clear that Pakistan’s batting is overdependent on Babar Azam, and with him registering scores of 13 & 3 in the series, puts into context the performance of his team. 

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (SL): 32 of 22 in the first match followed by a swashbuckling 48-ball 77 in the second, Bhanuka Rajapaksa has been one of the finds for Sri Lanka in this tour. Will the youngster back it up with another eyebrow-raising performance and inspire Sri Lanka to a series white-wash?

Head to Head

Overall

Matches – 20 | Pakistan won – 13 | Sri Lanka won – 7 | N/R- 0

In Pakistan

Matches – 3 | Pakistan won – 1 | Sri Lanka- 2 | N/R- 0

Stat Attack

3rd- This is the 3rd consecutive T20I series loss for Pakistan in 2019. While they lost 2-1 to South Africa, 1-0 against England, they now face a humiliating prospect of a series whitewash against the No.7 ranked side in the world.

9– No of games Pakistan have lost out of 39 since the 2016 T20 World Cup. But, five of those nine defeats have come in this calendar year.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony SIX

Online– Sony LIV

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