Pakistan and Sri Lanka begin their five-match, one-day series in Sharjah on Wednesday. Pakistan are fresh off a historic series win against South Africa and will fancy their chances in their home conditions.
What: Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka, first ODI
Venue: Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Start time: 11:00 GMT
Weather: There is no chance of rain in the UAE, and the weather will start off in the high 20s, cooling to around 15 degrees in the evening, according to Accuweather.
TV Info: Not shown in the UK, available in Pakistan on PTV Sports and in Sri Lanka on CSN Sports.
Outside of World Cup competitions, ODI series often hold very little relevance. With a Wold Cup about 14 months away, all series now have a little bit more to them. Teams need to finalise their squads, find their best XI and make sure their backup players can step up to the plate when it matters.
Pakistan have shown against South Africa recently that they have a really solid group of players who, despite still blowing hot and cold, can perform when it matters and pull them out of tough situations.
Sri Lanka have just had an indifferent series against New Zealand with a mixed bag of results, winning one, losing one and having another game rained out. Both sides play a unique brand of cricket that can be as nerve-wracking as they are exciting.
The Sharjah tends to be a rather flat surface which favours the batsmen. With no rain around and sun to bake the pitch, there should be big runs on offer for both teams.
Sri Lanka are good at accumulating totals and will probably prefer batting. Pakistan need to work on the way they approach any innings and need to focus on building partnerships at the top of the order. They struggled with this against South Africa but managed to get away with it.
Overall, the first ODI should be tightly contested with plenty of entertaining individual performances. The last time the two teams faced each other in the UAE, Pakistan crushed Sri Lanka 4-1 in a five-match series. That was in November 2011, and the hosts will hope to replicate that once again.
Bilawal Bhatti has emerged as a real asset to the Pakistan side. Not only can he bat lower down the order, but he's also a very handy bowler. He's the kind of complete cricketer Pakistan has missed for some time now, and after an encouraging effort in South Africa, he has a chance to do it on "home" turf.
Kumar Sangakkara has racked up 1,033 runs in one-day cricket this year at an average of 73.78. In home conditions, he has been breathtaking in almost every aspect. Now he has the chance to prove that he can produce these sorts of performances away from home, too. He's aggressive, he's flamboyant, he's entertaining and he should bring more of the same to the UAE—buckle up, bowlers.
Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Junaid Khan, Anwar Ali, Sohail Tanvir, Bilawal Bhatti
Angelo Mathews (cpt), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Dimuth Karunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Ashan Priyanjan, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kithuruwan Vithanage