A resurgent new look Sri Lanka buoyed by the historic 2-nil Test series triumph over hosts Pakistan will carry that atom in to the 5-match ODI series that starts on October 13 Friday in Dubai. Despite the fact that Pakistan bask in the aura of the kings in the 2017 Champions Trophy title, forecasts in Dubai are balanced putting both sides on an even keel. Observers believe that both sides have an equal chance of winning the series. That Pakistan’s stocks have somewhat dipped down is consequent to Sri Lanka’s demolition of the highly fancied hosts in the longer version of the game where the hosts had hitherto enjoyed an unbeaten stranglehold. Indeed, the ground estimation of the two sides in the pre-series hype is certainly an adrenaline pumping tonic to as they map out final preparations for the opening match. What has been heart-warming to the Sri Lankan camp that has just come out of a bad rut in recent times by the recent resounding success against Pakistan in breaking a barren run in test cricket against India is the relative new look Sri Lankans having put on more steel. It has led to a final countdown analysis ahead of the opening game that the outcome of the ODIs ‘isn’t as straightforward as some might believe.
The home team has significantly come right up front in the form of 27-year old skipper Dinesh Chandimal, the former Ananda College champion batsman. He has displayed a tremendous maturity in his batting in a remarkable turnaround as a calculated run grafter.
The 15-member squad is blended in a cast of imaginative young players led by the highly experienced campaigner Upul Tharanga. Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Thisara Perera and Seekkuge Prasanna imbibe much depth. The last three pack all-round talent with Perera in particular capable of changing the complexion of a game at any given time. This he did with great aplomb in guiding a World XI to a nail biting win against Pakistan recently, and his presence therein is a boost to Sri Lanka. There is an assortment of bowlers to pick from – Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay.
The return of left hander Lahiru Thirimanne who made a pleasing comeback half century to against India is seen as a plus point. Thirimanne has a match winning century record against Pakistan in the Asia Cup final in 2012 that would stand him in good stead this time around. He will open the batting with bludgeoner Niroshan Dickwella who has been one of the recent finds for Sri Lanka in both forms of the game. The bowling supremo of course, is the seasoned campaigner Rangana Herath who has proved to be a scourge of Pakistan’s top order batsmen as he did mainly in the first test.
From a Pakistan point of view, 2017 couldn’t hold any better for Sarfraz Ahmed who has proved to be an inspirational leader following the hammering handed to arch foes India in the Champions Trophy on the way to licking England in the final in their own den.
Upul Tharanga – Captain, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay.
Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Fahim Ashraf , Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Usman Khan
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-