KARACHI: The performance of some of their senior players will come under a microscope on Monday (today) when Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in the fifth and final One-day International in Colombo.
Trailing 1-2 behind the hosts in this rain-affected series, Pakistan will be looking to end the contest on a triumphant note after throwing away Saturday’s third ODI from a seemingly winning position.
And to level the series 2-2, Pakistan will need their misfiring batters to regain their form. Under a lot of pressure will be Younis Khan, Pakistan’s premier middle-order batsman, who has so far had a horrible series.
Younis has scored just 10 runs from three outings in this series. He came to Sri Lanka already suffering from a lean patch as in his last two ODI matches, Younis has scored just 97 runs. Also under a scanner will be opener Mohammad Hafeez and seasoned allrounder Shahid Afridi, who are yet to make any substantial contributions with the bat in this series.
Critics back home have already started to sharpen their knives and another failure on the part of these senior players could bring the national selectors under pressure to bring in reinforcements.
On Sunday, Javed Miandad stressed that Pakistan should start looking beyond the misfiring senior players. The former Pakistan captain, currently serving as Director-General of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), said that the selectors should blood youngsters in the team.
Miandad’s comments came just a day after Pakistan lost seven wickets for just 13 runs as they crashed to a 44-run defeat in Saturday’s game. Needing 244 to win, Pakistan were strongly placed at 166-2 before Thisara Perera bagged a hat-trick to bowl Sri Lanka to a dramatic win.
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain was clueless after his team’s loss. “Everything was under control and I don’t know what happened after that. And we can’t drop players like Sangakkara,” said Misbah referring to Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka’s top-scorer — who had a lucky escape when he was dropped on 35 by Umar Gul off Afridi.
Mahela Jayawardene, Misbah’s Sri Lankan counterpart, was all praise for Perera and pace spearhead Lasith Malinga.
“Thisara is improving and learning with each game,” said Jayawardene. “Also Kumar batted really well. We are still short of our best game, but we’ll take this”
“Lasith gave us that momentum. A couple of overs of aggressive bowling put them on the back foot and created a bit of doubt in their minds,” said the senior batsman.
After a series of wet days, both sides could expect a rainless day on Monday. While Sri Lanka are expected to field an unchanged team, Pakistan might bring in a fit-again Mohammad Sami in place of pacer Umar Gul, who had an unimpressive outing on Saturday.