Sri Lanka haven’t been in great form of late. They lost the Test series to Pakistan at home, their first loss to the visitors in nine years while playing in Sri Lanka. And now, they are trailing 1-2 in the one-dayers. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Lankans are now in a rebuilding phase. They no longer have the Kumar Sangakkaras and Mahela Jayawardenes in the middle order to shore up the batting. And, even though Tillakaratne Dilshan is still playing the shorter formats, he hasn’t looked in great touch, and may be past his prime.
Although Lanka’s rebuilding phase must be taken into consideration, they should still be disappointed with their showing in the third ODI on Sunday. Both their batting and bowling were completely out of sorts. Bowling is definitely the weaker of Lanka’s talents, and it was evident at the Premadasa on Sunday. What has hurt Sri Lanka the most has been the ineffectiveness of Lasith Malinga. He went into the series as their strike bowler, but has been easily taken away for runs in all matches.
With Malinga not at his best, Lanka’s bowling has been easily dealt with by Pakistan.. Nuwan Pradeep hasn’t looked anywhere close to the bowler he has proved to be when he is high on confidence. In fact, Lanka have actually been playing with only three specialist bowlers -- Sachith Pathirana being the third. But, he too has only made much of an impression. In the batting department, the likes of Upul Tharanga and Dishan have been disappointing. Lahiru Thirimanne finally got a decent score on the board. But, he needed to carry on, and make a big score.
Pakistan on the other hand batted with a lot of flair. In a rare show of consistency, all the top six batsmen either made 35 or more than that. Normally, if a team makes a 300 plus score, at least one batsman carries on and makes a hundred. But, since so many batsmen in the team made significant contributions in the innings, Pakistan were always in command. The visitors should be extremely pleased with the way things panned out. Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali got the team off to a flier, and which Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfraz Ahmed smashed fifties. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Rizwan then gave the perfect finishing touches.
There were positives for Pakistan in the bowling department as well, the biggest of them being the impressive effort of Yasir Shah. He had not done much of note in the earlier games, but was closer to his best on Sunday, picking up four big wickets. He was very well supported by debutant Imad Wasim who chipped in with a couple of wickets. All the bowlers combined to give Pakistan a comprehensive win. They should be confident of claiming the series from here.
-- By A Cricket Analyst