Pakistan will target another powerful show when they meet Sri Lanka in the first of three T20 internationals in Abu Dhabi today.
The Green Shirts’ limited-overs form, with their bowling devastating opponent after opponent, saw them brush Sri Lanka aside 5-0 in the ODI series which concluded on Monday. With their T20 form even better, they will start the shortest format as firm favourites.
If Pakistan, currently ranked No. 2 in the ICC T20I rankings, win all three matches they will come within a point of top-ranked New Zealand. If New Zealand then lose their T20 series against India next month, Pakistan will move up to the No. 1 spot.
Sarfraz Ahmed, under whom Pakistan have won nine of their 11 T20Is, described the ODI series win as satisfying and promised that there would be no let up in the shortest format.
“It was highly satisfying to win 5-0 because all the players have done well in all three departments,” said Sarfraz. “The best thing is that youngsters have done well and made an impact whenever they got a chance.”
But the Pakistan captain does not rate Sri Lanka as weak, even though the Sri Lankan selectors were forced to announce a new look team once Upul Tharanga, the regular skipper, Suranga Lakmal, Chamara Kapugedera, Akila Dananjaya and Lasith Malinga all pulled out of the tour due to security fears.
Pakistan’s pace department, their main weapon in their rise in ODI cricket since winning the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England in June, will welcome back spearhead Mohammad Amir who missed the 50 over games with a shin injury.
“Yes, Amir will be back and that adds to our weapons in bowling,” said Sarfraz, who will miss T20 specialist Rumman Raees who was ruled out with an elbow injury.
Mohammad Hafeez will boost both the team’s bowling and batting before he travels to Loughborough for an assessment of his bowling action, which was reported as suspect last week.
Tharanga’s pull out has handed the captaincy to Thisara Perera, the all rounder becoming Sri Lanka’s seventh captain across the three formats this year. While taking pride in being given the captaincy, Perera hoped the new look team would do something special.
Danushka Gunathilaka, the left hand batsman, is back after his six month ban was reduced to three by Sri Lanka Cricket, while Sadeera Samarawickrama will get another chance after failing in the ODI series. Minod Bhanuka is the other uncapped player and he will replace Niroshan Dickwella after the wicketkeeper batsman opted out of the series. Off spinner Mahela Udawatte will replace Dananjaya, having last played for the country in 2009.
The second match will also be in Abu Dhabi on Friday, while the last match will be played in Lahore on Sunday.