The third one-dayer of the series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan to be played at Colombo on Sunday will be very significant since both teams are tied 1-1 in the five-match series, and the side which loses the game on Sunday will have the unenviable task of winning both the last two matches to clinch the series. While Pakistan won the first game courtesy a brilliant all-round effort from Mohamamd Hafeez, Sri Lanka came back hard in the second as Kusal Perera hit a record fifty in a competitive chase. The teams will now be keen to extend their lead.
Pakistan would be disappointed that they couldn’t carry on the winning momentum. At the same time, they would be more worried with the fact that one of their most experienced players Mohammad Hafeez has been banned from bowling for a year, as his action has been found to be suspect yet again. Hafeez claimed four big wickets in the first game, and added two more in the losing cause at Pallekele. Without his bowling, Pakistan would definitely be weakened in the bowling department. It also remains to be seen how the development affects his batting.
While Pakistan couldn’t have done much about the manner in which Perera went berserk, they need to have a look at their batting effort. They should have crossed 300 after three of their players got half-centuries. But, they fell short, as the lower order could not capitalise on the same. In between, the likes of Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Alam batted slowly, as Pakistan could not build up a lot of momentum. As for their bowling, it wasn’t very impressive. The lack of impact being made by their key bowlers Mohammad Irfan and Yasir Shah is worrying.
Sri Lanka should be pleased with the manner in which they came back to square the series. Perera was spectacular without doubt, and Dinesh Chandimal played a mature innings to guide the team through. But, in between, they did not play a lot of smart cricket, and allowed Pakistan to come back into the game. Tillakarante Dilshan looked out of sorts even though he got close to a fifty. Not for the first time in the series, Upul Tharanga got out after getting a start, and similarly, Lahiru Thirimanne’s poor run of scored continued.
Sri Lanka’s bowling hasn’t been highly effective, which will also worry them, especially the form of their lead bowler Lasith Malinga. The hosts would be keen for him to find his groove. They have tried Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep in the first two games, but possibly shouldn’t be shuffling too much. As for spin, they tried Seekkuge Prasanna in the first one-dayer, and Sachith Pathirana in the second, but both conceded over 70 in their 9 overs. It remains to be seen what kind of combination Lanka take into the third match.
-- By A Cricket Analyst