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Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, 2nd T20I: Preview – Pressure on Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men to level the series

Despite the defeat in the series opener, Pakistan remain the favourites but Sri Lanka have the motivation to seal the series.

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Umar Akmal
Umar Akmal. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

There was an air of excitement in Lahore on Sunday with international cricket returning after a fair bit of break in the city. It hosted a lot of matches last year with the visiting teams including World XI coming over to play T20Is. Pakistan dominated in most of those games showcasing their skills in the shortest format and were obviously expected to do so against the second string Sri Lanka side as well.

But what transpired in the series opener stunned the home fans and even the experts. Sri Lanka handed a comprehensive 64-run thumping to Pakistan which must have really worked as a wake-up call for them with the T20 World Cup next year. The team missed the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez but they played a full-strength bowling attack which doesn’t concede more than 150 too often.

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Also, they need to look beyond Babar Azam in terms of performing in the shortest format. The talented youngster anchors the innings perfectly most of the times. But Pakistan struggles when he fails. The inability of the skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed to force the issue with the bat is also a glaring issue for the Men in Green. Though not much will be pondered after only one defeat, another one such hiding on Monday will raise more doubts.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. Rather not many players will know if they will play again for the country after this series with the preferred players returning. This is the best opportunity for them to show their mettle and seal their place on a long term basis.

Team Combination

Pakistan

Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal didn’t have a great comeback. But they are expected to get more chances which means more rest for Fakhar Zaman. Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali should perform in whatever chances they get with Hafeez and Malik expected to return whenever Pakistan will play T20Is next. Faheem Ashraf’s stocks have gone down quickly in the last few months and Wahab Riza might replace him.

Probable XI: Babar Azam, Ahmed Shehzad/Fakhar Zaman, Umar Akmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed (C & WK), Iftikhar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf/Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka have no reason to change the winning side. Danushka Gunathilaka is in great form since the ODI series and with Fernando, his opening partner, regaining his mojo will make things tough for the hosts once again. The debutant Rajapaksha was brilliant the other day and he will be keen to continue in the same vein. The skipper Dasun Shanaka and Shehan Jayasuriya should look to finish well.

They didn’t get the final flourish in the series opener and the batting looks thin beyond the number four. Isuru Udana, in that case, should take some more responsibility with the bat in case he gets to bat more deliveries.

Probable XI: Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksha, Dasun Shanaka (C), Shehan Jayasuriya, Isuru Udana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep.

Focus will be on

Umar Akmal (Pakistan)

Umar Akmal endured a forgettable comeback bagging a golden duck in the first T20I. Sarfaraz Ahmed has already cleared that the cricketer has his backing which means he will get more chances. But Umar has to be consistent to stay in the contention in the near future. A good outing in the must-win game will do a world of good for his confidence.

Avishka Fernando (Sri Lanka)

0, 4 and 33 are Fernando’s scores on this tour. He is, by his standards, is having a dull tour and would be itching to score big before travelling back home. Opening the innings in the T20Is also gives him the licence to go hard at the opposition from the word go.

Head to Head

Matches – 19 | Pakistan won – 13 | Sri Lanka won – 6 | N/R- 0

Stat Attack

16.33: Babar Azam’s average in four T20Is against Sri Lanka which is the lowest amongst the seven teams he has batted against in the format.

2 – The 64-run loss was only the second defeat for Pakistan at home in 11 T20 Internationals.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony Six and Sony Six HD

Online– Sony LIV

Match Timings – 18:30 local time, 19:00 IST (13:30 PM GMT)

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