Sri Lanka’s limited overs tour to Pakistan appears to be going one-way for now. The hosts appear too strong against a heavily depleted Sri Lankan side. Pakistan won the ODI series 2-0, after they clinched the last ODI by 5-wickets. Despite Sri Lanka showing bits of brilliance in traces in both the matches, Pakistan were just too good for them.
Pakistan will hence start as favorites in the 3-match T20I series – a format they are really good in. The first match of the series will be played at the famous Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore and the home side would look to continue their domination over the visitors.
Pakistan has enjoyed great success over Sri Lanka in T20Is in the recent past. In the last 5 T20Is between the two sides, Pakistan has won all of them. Sri Lanka has been a team in transition over the past four years and have been struggling for a while. What has made matters worse for them on this tour is that 10 Sri Lankan players have pulled out of it citing security concerns. Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Janith Perera, Dhananjaya De Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dhananjaya, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne are the players haven’t joined the Sri Lankan squad for the Pakistan tour.
Hence, Pakistan will have a massive advantage going into the 1st T20I. They have a robust batting unit with openers Fakhar Zaman, star batsman Babar Azam and middle-order batsman Haris Sohail being in form. All-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed can make an impact lower down the order as well. The return of Umar Akmal to the T20I side can have an interesting role.
Pakistan’s bowling has plenty of varieties. Seamer Usman Shinwari whose 5-21 in the 2nd ODI against Sri Lanka sealed the game for Pakistan also bowled well in the high-scoring 3rd game. He might well have a big role in this T20I too. Mohammad Amir is a reliable option and was among the wickets in the 3rd ODI. Wahab Riaz is in good rhythm too. If leg-spinner Shadab Khan can keep the runs in check then this Pakistani bowling unit can really apply pressure on the Sri Lankan batting.
Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka hence has a lot to think over. He would take heart from the fact that his inexperienced batting unit has shown great commitment. First, there was that amazing partnership between Shanaka and Shehan Jayasuriya in the 2nd ODI against Pakistan, after they had been reduced to 28-5, saved the team the blushes. The sublime 133 by opener Danushka Gunathilaka in the 3rd ODI and Dasun Shanaka’s cameo in the same match proved that Sri Lanka still has talent in the batting department.
However, the lack of form of Avishka Fernando is a worry.
In the bowling department, Sri Lanka would bank on Lakshan Sandakan and Nuwan Pradeep. Shehan Jayasuriya’s off-spin might play a crucial role too in this match.
Prediction: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 1st T20I
There have been 6 T20Is played at the Gaddafi Stadium so far – the venue of the 1st T20I between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The surface is generally good for batting – the highest team total here is 197-5 by Pakistan in September 2017.
The pitch for the first match should be a true one with batsmen enjoying it for the most part and spinners having a say in the second half. The combined total by both the teams in this match should be around 320 runs.
Given Pakistan’s recent form, their home advantage and all-round strength they appear as overwhelming favorites against a severely depleted and inexperienced Sri Lanka. Pakistan should hence clinch the first T20I match of this series.