Heavyweights clash at R Premadasa
February 25, 2011
February 26, Colombo
Start time 14:30 local time (09:00 GMT)
When the World Cup comes to colourful Colombo on Saturday, the tournament will begin in earnest for two subcontinent teams. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka opened with massive wins over Associate nations, but this will be their first real test in the competition. None of the smaller teams in Group A seem capable of challenging the Test nations, so the game will be important in terms of placings for the quarter-finals. And in a tournament whose first week has been loaded with one-sided matches, two teams packed with dynamic players also promise some high-voltage entertainment.
Past records might suggest Pakistan have an edge - they have beaten Sri Lanka in each of their six encounters in the World Cups and have won their previous five games at the R Premadasa - but that will count for little. The two sides have not faced each other in cricket's showpiece tournament since 1992, and the Premadasa has undergone extensive redevelopment. What will help Pakistan, though, is the relative lack of controversy surrounding the current team, a low-profile lead-up and the confidence of a recent series win, in New Zealand, behind them.
Sri Lanka's advantage is that most of their players have had a taste of how the new track will fare during the domestic limited-over tournament held in January. Traditionally, this has been a bat-first venue, especially in day-night games where the team chasing has won only one of the past 13 matches, but it remains to be seen how the re-laid pitch fares .
Form guide(Most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWWLW
Pitch and conditionsThe pitch will be the centre of attention since it's a re-laid track, and Saturday's game will be the first international game to be played on it. It may not be too high scoring a game, if the domestic matches played since the stadium was re-developed are anything to go by. The highest score batting first in the one-dayers played in January was 225, a total which was easily defended. Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, though, expects the bare surface to be good for batting.
Watch out for…Thisara Perera was outstanding with the ball against Canada, and picked loads of wickets whenever he got a chance in 2010 as well. He worked up real pace in Hambantota, and has provided the team management with the welcome headache of working out how to accommodate him, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Angelo Mathews in the XI. He also adds muscle to Sri Lanka's lower-middle order.
Shoaib Akhtar has weathered stacks of controversies and fitness problems to become one of the few constants in Pakistan's team. There has not been any talk of injuries for eight months, a minor miracle given his past record. Age hasn't slowed him down too much either; even at 35 he remains among the quickest bowlers in the world.
Team newsPakistan have hinted they will stick to the same combination that played Kenya, which means Wahab Riaz and Saeed Ajmal are likely to remain on the bench. Waqar Younis has said Pakistan are pondering how to use Abdul Razzaq better, but for now he will continue to be an impact batsman at No. 8 and opening the bowling.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Kamran Akmal (wk), 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Abdur Rehman, 11 Shoaib Akhtar
The main concern for Sri Lanka is the fitness of their pace spearhead, Malinga, who has a back strain. He missed Sri Lanka's opening game, but he did bowl in the nets on Friday. The physio will take a call on Saturday whether Malinga will play. If he doesn't, Sri Lanka could stick to the same XI that beat Canada.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Thilan Samaraweera, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan
Try picking the XIs for tomorrow's game by playing Team Selector.
Stats and trivia
- Muttiah Muralitharan needs one more wicket to move past Wasim Akram's tally of 55 wickets to become the second highest wicket-taker in World Cups.
- Sri Lanka have never beaten Pakistan in six World Cup matches, though the two haven't met in the competition since 1992.
- One more stumping will take Sangakkara's tally to eight, moving ahead of Adam Gilchrist and Moin Khan, with whom he current shares the record for most stumpings.
- This is Afridi's fourth World Cup, but he is yet to make a half-century.
"In the past we've played really well against him in this country. I don't think we should worry about him that much; he is not 28 anymore. It is not going to be easy though. We're prepared not only for him but the entire team."
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