COLOMBO: Pakistan and Sri Lanka are set to resume their rivalry at the R Premadasa Stadium today (July 19), as each looks to take the lead in the third match of what has been an evenly contested One-Day International series so far.
However, Pakistan will go into Sunday’s game under the cloud of Mohammad Hafeez s ban from bowling.
Hafeez, who was reported for the second time for a suspect action following the first Test, was on Friday banned from bowling for a year after he failed to clear the official test.
With the all-rounder having taken a career-best 4 for 41 in the first ODI, to go with 2 for 61 in the second, his absence with the ball for this five-match series will be a considerable blow.
“It s going to be a negative for Pakistan, but we can t be complacent,” said Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, on the eve of the match.
Pakistan, now at No. 9 in the ICC rankings in ODIs and for whom an ICC Champions Trophy 2017 berth is at stake, are looking to return to winning ways, having allowed Sri Lanka to draw level at 1-1 with a two-wicket win in Pallekele.
With the momentum shifting several times during the tour, they showed the ability to bounce back during the Tests, and will hope that is an attitude mirrored by their one-day side.
The side did show glimpses of that in the first ODI, with Mohammad Rizwan showcasing his aggression with the bat, and the bowlers doing well to pull things back after Kusal Perera s early onslaught to ensure a tense finish.
Sri Lanka, for their part, will be buoyed by the form of Perera, who smashed the second-fastest ODI fifty, off just 17 balls, to set up a successful chase of Pakistan s 278 for 8. They will, however, expect more consistent performances from him.
“It was tough to come back after the way Kusal Perera batted, but I am proud of my team for fighting back,” said Azhar Ali, the Pakistan captain, after the match. “The series is open and I am confident we will come back strongly in the next game.”
Sri Lanka’s middle order has been a cause for concern and was exposed in the last game too.
With the team trying to rebuild in the absence of legends Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in the line-up, Mathews insisted they would keep faith in the players despite some patchy performances and allow them to build confidence.
“We are on the right path. It s just that as I always say, we don t have Sangakkara and Mahela, that experience to deal with the pressure. But the boys are handling it pretty well. We saw it in the last game as well. You have to give players a fair chance.”
Sachith Pathirana had a debut he d like to forget with the ball, but impressed with his cameo in Sri Lanka s chase, coming in under pressure, and he would be one of those Mathews is likely to retain faith in.
Fielding, though, is an area Mathews has less patience with. “We were terrible on the field it was very embarrassing. We can t field like this as a unit.”