Theekshana returns for Sri Lanka, but Pakistan start favourites

Source: PTI

Pakistan and Sri Lanka have hardly faced each other in ODIs of late. The Asia Cup fixture in September was the first between the two after four years. Before that, they played a five-match bilateral series in Pakistan in 2019. Two of those games were washed out.

So, familiarity is not something either side will bank on when Babar Azam and Dasun Shanaka walk out for the toss in Hyderabad on Tuesday (October 10). It’s Pakistan’s chance to consolidate after collecting full points against the Netherlands. For Sri Lanka, it’s about coming back after the big defeat against South Africa. Spinner Maheesh Theekshana’s return is good news for them.

Pakistan will be more familiar with the conditions, having spent some time and played the first match in Hyderabad. They have been camping there since arriving for the warm-up game against New Zealand played on September 29. They have seen the rain and the sun, soaked in the sights and sounds, and had their share of the biryani.

Babar and his boys should fancy their chances and remember that they had lost to Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup match on September 14. They were not at full strength in that game and still gave the islanders some nerve-wracking moments towards the end. Man for man, going by every position, Pakistan are ahead of Sri Lanka on paper at the moment.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t problem areas. The biggest one is at the top of the order. Fakhar Zaman is going through a bad phase. After three centuries and a fifty in his first five innings this year, he has averaged 18.36 in the last 11 matches with a highest of 33. His record and the impact he can make has kept him in the XI. But there will not be many more chances.

The rest of Pakistan’s batting looks more or less settled. Babar and Mohammad Rizwan are the central figures. Others bat around them. A plus for them is they bat deep, which came in handy against the Netherlands after they lost six wickets. They have resources in bowling even in the absence of Naseem Shah, although it wasn’t a great first match for this department.

This is where Sri Lanka is lagging, largely due to injuries. Already without their main fast bowler and star spinner, they will bank on Theekshana. The spinner, who did not play the first match, is set to come back to the XI. Fast bowler, Lahiru Kumara, however, remains uncertain. South Africa took heavy toll of this depleted attack and plundered a World Cup record total of 428 in Delhi. It could be another stern examination against Pakistan.

Under the circumstances, they have no choice but to rely more on the batting unit. Kusal Mendis is their biggest hope and a player in form. With four half-centuries in his last six innings, the batter at No 3 is taking the game to the opposition and Sri Lanka need more with this kind of mindset. It’s a fairly decent batting unit, which has to get its act together.

Time and venue details

October 10 from 14:00 IST. Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad.

Expected conditions

It should be warm and clear. The pitch has assisted stroke play and high scores so far. It’s unlikely to be any different, although there may be some spike marks on the surface considering that Hyderabad is hosting matches on successive days.

Possible XIs

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman is the man not in form. But he might just get another chance.

Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman/Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf.

Sri Lanka: Maheesh Theekshana will return. Whether he replaces a pacer or left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage has to be seen.

Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Dunith Wellalage/Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Matheesha Pathirana, Dilshan Madushanka.


Mendis vs Afridi: This is a potentially lip-smacking duel. Kusal Mendis doesn’t give a damn who is bowling and puts everything to the sword. Shaheen Afridi is most lethal early on. That’s when the field restrictions are in play. This should be worth a watch.

Sri Lankan bowlers vs Babar: The Pakistan skipper would like to get some runs under his belt after missing out against the Netherlands. Attack isn’t Sri Lanka’s strength at the moment. How Babar takes advantage of that and how the Sri Lankans respond will be interesting to watch. 

Team Speak

I shared an important partnership in the last match with Shadab when we were six wickets down. While bowling, I got good drift. I am carrying a lot of confidence from that game into this one.

Mohammad Nawaz (Pakistan all-rounder)

Maheesh Theekshana should be available for tomorrow’s game. We didn’t take a risk in the last game. With him coming in, our bowling attack will be a lot stronger.

Naveed Nawaz (batting coach, Sri Lanka) 

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