Pakistan begin their post-world cup era when they face Sri Lanka in the first ODI of a three-match series in Karachi on Friday. The contest is much more than Pakistan’s first international fixture after failing to make the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England earlier this year. This is the first time Karachi will host an ODI – 3901 days to be precise – in over 10 years. It’s also the first time a top-flight team is touring the country since the fateful terrorist attack on a Sri Lankan side in 2009 resulted in teams refusing to play cricket in Pakistan citing security reasons.
Interestingly, it’s Sri Lanka who could set in motion the return of international cricket in Pakistan.
Back to cricket then. Pakistan have sacked their entire coaching staff and have installed a new coach-cum-chairman of selectors in former captain Misbah-ul-Haq to lead them into a new direction. However, Sarfaraz Ahmed has managed to hold onto his position and in front of lies a task to take a team forward that at best can be described as unpredictable.
What can be predicted about them is the quality of the current Pakistan squad that is to face Sri Lanka which is several rungs above the struggling tourists who are sorting issues of their own. This apart from the fact that several of Sri Lanka’s first choices (10 to be exact) backed out of the tour leaving them with a bunch of inexperienced players.
Sri Lanka though could take confident from the fact that despite a forgettable world cup, they have started their next phase on a positive not, clean sweeping Bangladesh 3-0 in a home series. But can they present a strong challenge to Pakistan an that too in front of what will be a packed partisan home crowd?
What: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI
When: September 27, 2019
Venue: National Stadium, Karachi
Weather: Maximum of 31 degrees, mostly cloudy
A couple of Pakistan stars are missing the series due to various reasons and Shoaib Malik has retired meaning there’s a chance for others to make an impression. Mohammad Rizwanm Mohammad Nawaz and Iftikhar Ahmed are back in the limited-overs setup.
Predicted XI: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain & wk), Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari
More than Pakistan, this is for the Sri Lankan next-gen to lay their claim and a chance for their team management to assess the options they have for the future.
Predicted XI: Lahiru Thirimanne (captain), Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk), Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Isuru Udana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep