Sri Lanka did not embarrass themselves in the two ODIs, but they did not come close to winning a match either. On the surface, their prospects in the T20I series seem even bleaker. Pakistan are the top-ranked T20I side in the world, having won 11 of their past 13 series in the format. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are ranked eighth, and will even have to play the preliminary round of next year’s T20 World Cup in order to qualify for the tournament. They won the T20 World Cup as recently as 2014, but their form in the shortest format nosedived shortly after. They have lost five of their last six series.
Regular captain Lasith Malinga took four wickets in four balls in Sri Lanka’s most-recent T20I, but Malinga, along with many other first-choice T20I players are not here. Instead, the team is led by Dasun Shanaka, and the 16-man squad features only two players over the age of 30 – Nuwan Pradeep and Isuru Udana. As was the case in the ODIs, this series is a test for Sri Lanka’s next generation. Can the likes of 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Minod Bhanuka and 22-year-old allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga make the transition to international cricket? They showed glimpses of quality in the ODIs, but need to make waves in the T20Is as well, to really capture the selectors’ attention.
Although over the past two years Pakistan have a good T20I record, their 2019 numbers are not quite so impressive, having lost three of the last four matches they’ve played. With their batting firepower bolstered by the likes of Umar Akmal and their verstility improved by Faheem Ashraf, they will hope to reimpose themselves in the format against a seriously depleted Sri Lanka.
Pakistan LWLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLLL
In the spotlight
Pakistan’s fielding had briefly been outstanding, during the back end of Steve Rixon’s stint as fielding coach. Since his departure from their dressing room, though, their fielding standards appear to have slipped substantially – the ODI on Wednesday pockmarked by repeated ground-fielding errors, including a comically woeful attempt at stopping an errant throw, which yielded four overthrows as two fielders fell over in its wake. In T20Is, where an extra ten runs can mean the difference between a comfortable win and a very tight finish, Pakistan’s fielding will be under the microscope.
Sri Lanka’s death bowling will be substantially weakened by the absence of Malinga, which means some combination of Nuwan Pradeep, Isuru Udana, Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha will have to step up. Malinga has not had a reliable death-bowling partner since the falling away of Nuwan Kulasekara, with whom he had once built an outstanding long-term partnership. Here is a chance for the other quicks to showcase their nerves, in what is an audition to be Malinga’s death-overs partner.
Umar Akmal is likely to slot into the middle order, while Babar Azam is likely to open. On the seam-bowling front, they will have to decide between Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari and Mohammad Hasnain.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Babar Azam, 3 Haris Sohail, 4 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Shadab Khan, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Usman Shinwari/ Mohammad Hasnain
With Minod Bhanuka having played a decent hand with the bat on Wednesday, he may be preferred to Sadeera Samarawickrama. Pradeep will likely make the XI for his experience, while Isuru Udana is also likely to slot in.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Shehan Jayasuriya, 4 Angelo Perera, 5 Minod Bhanuka (wk), 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Lahiru Madushanka, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Wanindu Hasaranga, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Pitch and conditions
The weather is expected to remain good for the duration of the match, but given the cooler evenings in October, teams may have to contend with some dew on the outfield. The pitch is expected to be decent for batting.
Stats and trivia
Babar’s recent T20I record is no less fearsome than his ODI record. Since the start of 2018, he averages 54.21 in the format, with a strike rate of 134, across 16 innings.
Only five members of Sri Lanka’s T20I squad in Pakistan played the team’s most-recent T20I, against New Zealand last month.
Pakistan have won 13, and lost only five of their T20Is against Sri Lanka. They have won each of their last six encounters in the format.