It had rained pretty much constantly for two weeks in Colombo before Sri Lanka had left to Pakistan. After arriving in Karachi early last week, it had rained pretty much constantly for the first few days, forcing the abandonment of the first ODI. In a fortnight in which climate change has been in the news globally, perhaps it has been fitting that unstinting, unseasonal rains in both cities have also left their mark on the game.
Whether the rains are a result of a changing climate or not, they certainly have made Sri Lanka’s unenviable position even worse. Already weakened by a slew of withdrawals, Sri Lanka have also been unable to train as they would like, both before they left for the tour, as well as since arriving in Pakistan. What’s more, if there is extra moisture in the Karachi surface to aid seam bowling, this too, may play into the hands of their hosts, who have the superior seam attack.
Pakistan may be stepping out into a new era, under Misbah-ul-Haq. But they were always strong favourites in this series, against a team that still does not have a permanent coach. The rains have only made Sri Lanka’s challenge more difficult.
Pakistan WWWWL (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
There is no doubt Danushka Gunathilaka is a talented batsman. But he has, in the past three years, been on the end of too many disciplinary indiscretions, the most-recent of which was a broken curfew in the middle of a Test match last year. Gunathilaka was not picked for Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad, partly because of that history. He needs more runs most to convince the selectors that he should be part of Sri Lanka’s best starting XI when all players are available.
The days when Sri Lanka’s batsmen could consider themselves among the best players of spin are long gone. As the likes of Imran Tahir have repeatedly proved, this generation of Sri Lanka batsmen have a particular weakness against legspin. In the five games he has played against them so far, Shadab Khan has excellently exploited this weakness, taking 10 wickets at an average of 16.3 – his best against any major nation. With the current Sri Lanka top-order batsmen being essentially the second string, perhaps Shadab has an opportunity to improve on those numbers.
It is difficult to predict Sri Lanka’s XI, but Nuwan Pradeep may get a game owing to his experience. Lakshan Sandakan is the only specialist spinner in the squad, but with the likes of Shehan Jayasuriya and Wanindu Hasaranga (both spin-bowling allrounders) around, perhaps he will not be required, especially if seam movement is expected.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Lahiru Thirimanne (capt.), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), 5 Oshada Fernando, 6 Shehan Jayasuriya, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Wanindu Hasaranga, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Batsman Asif Ali played only two World Cup matches, but may get an opportunity here. Left-arm seamer Usman Shinwari, who last played an ODI in March, could also get a game.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt.) (wk), 6 Asif Ali, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Usman Shinwari
Pitch and conditions
There is only a 10% chance of rain on Monday, which should mean a match of some sort will be possible. Bright sunshine over the weekend has also helped dry the ground, which had been seriously waterlogged on Friday.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan have won their six most-recent (completed) matches against Sri Lanka – a streak that goes back to 2017
Gunathilaka has played only five ODIs since the start of 2018, but averages 46.50 through that period
Shadab has never gone wicketless against Sri Lanka. All five of his matches against them were in the UAE
Babar Azam is ranked third on the ICC rankings for ODI batting, while Imam-ul-Haq is joint 11th with Australia’s Aaron Finch. To find the best-ranking Sri Lanka batsman involved in this series, you have to go all the way down to No. 80: Avishka Fernando