Group B: Sri Lanka v Pakistan
Date: Monday (June 12)
Venue: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
147 matches; Pakistan 84 wins; Sri Lanka 58 wins; Tie 1; No Result 4.
Who would have thought Sri Lanka and Pakistan would stretch their campaign this far, especially after the way they began? Sri Lanka had lost to South Africa – as expected, if one might add, given Sri Lanka’s form and South Africa’s top ranking in One-Day International cricket. Pakistan were humbled by India in what turned out to be a mismatch.
But it all changed rapidly over the next set of games in the group. Pakistan, being Pakistan, stunned South Africa while Sri Lanka lifted their game remarkably to get past India. Now, they’re in a virtual quarterfinal with the winner set to take on England in the semifinal.
Interestingly, victories for both sides were set up by different departments. For Pakistan, it was their bowling which rose to the occasion and kept South Africa down to 219. Sri Lanka’s batsmen spearheaded their win as they played with aggression throughout a chase of 322 to coast home comfortably.
It all sets up Monday’s game beautifully – Sri Lanka’s aggressive batting v Pakistan’s skilled bowling.
The sun was out and shone bright on Cardiff on the eve of the game, and the forecast for Monday is promising as well. The pitch will be different from the one for the previous game where Bangladesh chased down 266 against New Zealand. This surface is also expected to be good for batting with a decent grass covering, but bowlers will fancy their chances too.
Imad Wasim v Danushka Gunathilaka
Imad Wasim set up Pakistan’s win over South Africa by getting Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers – for a rare first-ball duck – in a miserly spell. Imad is sharp, accurate and relentless with his lines, and even opened the bowling against India.
But he’ll have a tough challenge on Monday with Sri Lanka having two left-hand batsmen at the top in the form of Niroshan Dickwella and Gunathilaka. Gunathilaka in particular will be full of positivity after his 72-ball 76 against India – a game he played only because Chamara Kapugedera was injured on match eve. One specialises in attack, the other in restricting. Who will win the battle?
Niroshan Dickwella: Like Gunathilaka, Dickwella too is an aggressive batsman who is intent on taking on the bowlers, whoever they might be. South Africa found that out for a brief while when he smashed his way to a 33-ball 41, but he couldn’t make it big. If he can against Pakistan, there could be some entertainment.
Babar Azam: One of the most talented young batsmen in Pakistan now, Azam already has five centuries and six half-centuries in just 28 ODIs. He missed out against India but made a crucial 31* against South Africa, taking Pakistan past the DLS par score when rain arrived. Will the upward graph continue?
WATCH OUT FOR…
Asela Gunaratne: There were multiple stars in Sri Lanka’s successful chase against India but perhaps the most entertaining knock was played by Gunaratne. Walking in with seven overs remaining, Gunaratne played some unbelievable shots in a cameo of 34 not out (21b) to kill the chase in style. He is also capable of playing a long innings, and along with his gentle medium pace, Gunaratne is an asset for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Seekkuge Prasanna.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Rumman Raees.