COLOMBO, Jul 31: This tour is already Pakistan’s most fruitful trip to Sri Lanka since 2006, and on Saturday, they will have a shot at sweeping the trophies. The visitors were always likely to fare well against the younger Sri Lanka players, but it is their dominance of Sri Lanka’s big names that has defined the tour.
Rangana Herath was defused in the Tests, where Kumar Sangakkara was also muzzled. Lasith Malinga has so far been dismantled across two formats, and even Angelo Mathews’ usually-prolific limited-overs batting has been quieted. Pakistan will be encouraged that they have done all this with a somewhat inexperienced side of their own.
Shahid Afridi now arrives at the final skirmish with a batting order in excellent touch, a bowling unit churning out wickets, and by a distance the better fielding side in the series. Add to this Sri Lanka’s woeful T20 record at Khettarama, where they have lost seven matches out of eight, and Pakistan appear clear favourites so far as such labels are valid in matches featuring these two teams.
Sri Lanka’s opening combination seems to be where much of their hope for an upset lies. If Kusal Perera fires as he did at Pallekele and Hambantota, Sri Lanka are capable of mounting a large total. The lower middle order has been consistently strong in the limited-overs matches as well, and now seems to have been bolstered by the return of Chamara Kapugedara, who on Thursday provided glimpses of the player Sri Lanka wanted him to become for so many years.
Their bowling is less sure. As brutally honest as Malinga has been about his own form over the past weeks, it seems unlikely that 48 hours will be long enough for him to rekindle his old fire. Thisara Perera turned in an improved display with the ball on Thursday, but he is quite a distance from his best as well.