By Srian Obeyesekere reporting from Sharjah
Three-nil down, Sri Lanka will go in to the fourth ODI against Pakistan intent on breaking the long drought of 10 losses on the trot and 5 to Pakistan in Sharjah. They have lost their last five ODIs against Pakistan in Sharjah. Sri Lanka last beat Pakistan in Sharjah was in 2002. With the pitch forecast favouring the side batting first like in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the toss of the coin will be a prevailing factor due to the due conditions setting in later.
Sri Lanka have made two changes from the side that played in the last match with young batsman Sadeera Samarawickrema being named in the final eleven along with Seekuge Prasanna. The surprise inclusion was Milinda Siriwardena who has had a poor outing in three matches having failed to reach double figures, and neither contributing with the ball. The inclusion of the highly talented Samarawickrema is a welcome decision by the team management. The youngster has been in the appetite for runs in recent outings, and his 38 in the second test against Pakistan in even time was suggestive of his batting ability as Sri Lanka romped to victory.
Although the rest of the series is only of academic interest Sri Lanka yet have all to play for. That is to break the barren run and prove to the world that the island nation is capable of getting back on track to reclaiming lost pride.
Chamara Kapugedera was not considered being unfit after being struck on his neck by a ball thrown by wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella in the Abu Dhabi match. It was quite a nasty blow causing a swelling with Kapugedera having to take no further part in the match sometime after Pakistan began its innings.
The result of the last match does put the onus on Sri Lanka to put on the table a constructive game plan to get the better of a rampant Pakistan for whom success has been like flowing wine. Upul Tharanga and his team will need to get their act right in all departments of the game knowing that this young Pakistan side has called every shot right. That most every young buck put on the blocks has clicked has been an ascending factor to the 2017 ICC Trophy Champions. The best example of it was exemplified by the 21-year old Imam-ul-Haq who proved to be the main thorn to the Sri Lankans in mounting Pakistan’s run chase by a brilliant debut century. He made history by becoming only the second Pakistani to score a debut century. It must serve as a classic example for the Sri Lankan batsmen to take a cue from to get back on track where a relative greenhorn played the innings of his life to steer his side to victory. The Sri Lankan batters failed to live up to expectations except for skipper Upul Tharanga. The specialist batsmen like Dickwella, Chandimal, Thirimanne will do well to realize that half hearted contributions will not carry Sri Lanka through. The top batters need to put their soul in to it knowing they are playing for their country and that nothing short of the best of skills in the willow art would take Sri Lanka to the winning post.
The bowlers too will have to bowl lion heartedly to carry forward the country slogan One Team, One Nation as an entire nation of over 21 million cricket loving Sri Lankan population wait with crossed fingers to see Sri Lanka sound the winning board.
Pakistan will play today with the souring news that Mohammad Hafeez, has been reported for a suspect action for the third time in three years. However, he is still expected to play in what could be an unchanged XI.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Mohammad Hafeez, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt. and wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Rumman Raees, 9 Shadab Khan, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Junaid Khan
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Niroshan Dickwella, (wk), 2 Upul Tharanga (capt), 3 Kusal Mendis/Chamara Kapugedera, 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Dushmantha Chameera, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Jeffrey Vandersay, 11 Lahiru Gamage
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-