PALLEKELE - Just like Pakistan were found wanting in all departments in the opening T20I, It was Sri Lanka’s turn to be overwhelmed as Pakistan won the opening ODI by quite comfortably to take the lead in the five match series. Going into the second One Dayer, Misbah ul Haq will be hoping that his side extends the winning momentum while Mahela Jayawardene will be hoping for his team to come up with an improved effort and square the series.
The two Twenty20s in Hambantota and the first ODI in Pallekele have all been about the bowlers though, with the batsmen being tested in seaming conditions reminiscent of cricket in the early English summer. The frequent rain interruptions during Thursday’s one-dayer added to that impression.
Sri Lanka: It was a collective failure on part of the batters that led to Sri Lanka’s loss in the first game of the ODI series. Sri Lanka’s ODI form in the recent times has not been all that good and the main reason for that is that the batsmen have failed to provide the team with anything substantial. This trend has continued into the current series and the batting woes is hurting Sri Lanka pretty badly. Even in the preceding T20I series, the batsmen were not upto the mark, with the top order, including the likes of Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mahela, failing to contribute. It was even worse in the 1st ODI as none of the batsmen showed any inclination to stay put in the crease and build a platform, barring Lahiru Thirimanne. If Sri Lanka are to counter the powerful bowling line up of Pakistan then the batsmen needs to stand up and make their performances count. The coach and the skipper would probably have said the same in the team meeting but unless the effort is shown on the ground, Sri Lanka will soon be in danger of losing their 4th bilateral ODI series against Pakistan at home.
As far as the Lankan bowlers are concerned, they have not been able to do much as the batsmen have failed to provide them with something worth defending. Despite that, there has been no dearth of spirit as the likes of Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath have been going hard at the Pakistani batsmen and have kept them on the toes. All Mahela will be hoping for is a strong performance from Sri Lanka’s batsmen including himself, which in turn will enable the bowlers to have a larger say in the proceedings.
Pakistan: Pakistan have won 9 of the last 11 ODIs against Sri Lanka and the main reason for that is that the team has performed as an unit. The bowlers are specially to thank for that as they have been pretty consistent in their endevours, not letting the Lankan batsmen to dictate terms to them. A quality line up with the likes of Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez is no doubt a tough proposition for the opposition, but these bowlers have never let down the steam and have rendered one successful performance after another. The opening ODI also saw a similar showing with regular bowlers like Gul and Hafeez shining with the ball. But what the selectors would have been most pleased about is the performance of Mohammad Sami, who returned to ODI cricket with a bang, coming up with a commendable effort with the ball. The skipper will be counting on the bowlers to continue their good showing throughout the series.
While the bowlers have been on target, Pakistan’s main concern will be with the batting department, specifically the top order. While they do have solid batsmen like Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Younis Khan in the top 3, they have failed to get off to good starts. There have also been a few occasions when despite getting a start, Pakistan have been unable to capitalize. In the previous match too, Hafeez batted solidly but the quick wickets of Azhar and Younis meant that Pakistan had to graft for a while and could not secure a victory as comfortably as they would have hoped for when they restricted Sri Lanka to 135.
Although it was a hard-working pitch for the batsmen, there could been some better shot selection. Misbah will be hoping that these chinks are rectified sooner than later and will also be expecting a better fielding performance from his team, considering the number of catches dropped and the lapses in the field.
Updated at: 11 December 2013
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Updated at: 11 December 2013
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