Pakistan are counting on a change in format and players to overcome a resurgent Sri Lanka in the five-match one-day series starting in Dubai from Friday.
Pakistan were upset 2-0 in the preceding Test series but they are hoping to change their fortunes and carry the limited over form which helped them win the eight-nation Champions Trophy held in England in June this year.
They only have skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, batsmen Haris Sohail and Babar Azam and fast bowler Hasan Ali from the Test series, while experienced allrounder Mohammad Hafeez and opener Ahmed Shahzad amongst the 11 who joined the squad.
Ahmed feels the pressure of losing his first Test series but promised a better performance in the limited over matches.
“Obviously, when you have a first Test series as captain, and you lose it, pressure will be there,” said Ahmed who played a match winning 61 not out against Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy group match.
“But we will try and get out of that. Our one-day team is balanced and our record is very good. We will have some senior players returning and I hope we’ll play better cricket.”
Pakistan also have a young crop of fast emerging players in opener Fakhar Zaman – who hit a century in the Champions Trophy final against India – leg-spinner Shadab Khan, allrounders Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf, and pacers Rumman Raees, Junaid Khan and Usman Shinwari.
Spearhead Mohammad Amir was ruled out of the series with a shin injury sustained in the second Test in Dubai.
Pakistan’s loss in the Test series was their first in United Arab Emirates in 10 attempts since they were forced to play at a neutral venue amidst security fears sparked after 2009 terrorists’ attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore.
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) October 12, 2017
But their one-day record in UAE has been abysmal, having lost nine of the 12 series since 2009, only winning twice against Sri Lanka and once against the West Indies.
Sri Lanka have come from wretched one-day form, having lost 16 of their last 21 games, winning four with one no result. That included a 5-0 whitewash against South Africa and India and first-ever series defeat against minnows Zimbabwe.
That defeat against India last month put pressure on skipper Upul Tharanga.
“We lacked consistency. We didn’t bat, bowl or field well. We were outplayed by India. I am disappointed with our batting effort,” said Tharanga whose team failed to reach 250 in any of the matches.
The remaining matches are in Abu Dhabi (16 and 18 October) and Sharjah (October 20 and 23). Three Twenty20 matches will follow the ODIs, two in Abu Dhabi (October 26 and 27) and the last in Lahore (October 29).
Teams (from): Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Shahdab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari, Ruman Raees, Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella,Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedara, Thisara Perera, Seekuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay.
Umpires: Sundaram Ravi (IND) and Ahsan Raza (PAK).
TV umpire: Richard Kettleborough (ENG).
ICC match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM).
The cancellation and postponement of South Africa’s inaugural T20 Global League, which was due to take place in November, has left a hole in the the Proteas’ calendar and many international stars are now available for competition.
For Pakistan – after the completion of their upcoming ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka to be played in the UAE and in Lahore this month – the team have a vacant November and December before they travel to New Zealand in the New Year.
This has opened a window of possibility for the two teams to clash against each other next month, with South Africa also free for matches
Pakpassion’s Saj Sadiq has reported talks are ongoing between the two nations.
It is likely Pakistan would travel to South Africa to complete a short series, rather than the Green Army hosting the African side.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s press conference in Dubai following the Test series defeat to Sri Lanka began with the fire alarm going off in the conference room. It was quote poignant following Pakistan’s first ever Test series defeat in UAE.
Pakistan had high hopes after starting the day on 198-5, chasing 317, with overnight batsmen Ahmed and Asad Shafiq starting off with fifties next to their name.
But once Ahmed perished while trying to sweep off-spinner Dilruwan Perera, the wheels came off and the ‘hosts’ lost inside the first session on the last day despite a century from Shafiq (112).
Captain Ahmed said poor batting was the main reason for the series defeat. Pakistan failed to chase down 136 in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, and were dismissed for 262 and 248.
“We lacked a lot in batting. We didn’t play long innings despite getting starts. Like Asad did in the second innings, if someone had played like that in the first innings or previous Test, we could have done better,” Ahmed said.
“In this series, we faced more trouble in our batting. We had fifties, but couldn’t convert them into big hundreds. We also didn’t have partnerships. That’s why we lost the series.”
Two big issues facing Pakistan are openers and the batting position of Azhar Ali. Shan Masood averages 23.5 in Tests while Sami Aslam just over 31. Also, Ali was pushed to the middle order despite doing well as an opener last season when he scored a triple century, a double century and two tons at the top of the order.
Feel for Babar Azam. When u do bad in Tests u play first-class cricket to work on ur technique. But in Pakistan, f-c sees 20 wkts in a day.— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) October 9, 2017
“It’s not that we struggled because of our openers. In both Tests, they gave us a good start (114 and 61 in first innings). We wanted to have Azhar in the middle order because Pakistan have tasted success because of a strong middle order.”
The form of Babar Azam is another concern. The middle-order batsman has been out without scoring five times in six Tests this year. However, Sarfraz requested a bit more patience.
“This is a young team, new team. Babar Azam is a talented player. His performances in Tests recently haven’t been good. But I don’t think he should be written off. He needs some time in Test cricket.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman said ultimately Sri Lanka were the better team and deserved the series win.
“Sri Lanka played better cricket than us. Credit goes to them. Their spinners and seamers did very well. We had experienced bowlers like Hasan Ali and (Mohammad) Amir but unfortunately, couldn’t get the wickets. Their fast bowlers did better. They bowled in the right areas and picked wickets at the right time,” Ahmed added.