Pakistan will face Sri Lanka in their last encounter of group matches in the Champions Trophy today (Monday). In what will be a virtual quarter-final at the Sophia Gardens both the sides are expected to go all guns blazing to secure a spot in the semi-finals.
Pakistan had suffered a 124-run defeat against arch-rivals and defending champions India in their first group match while Sri Lanka too suffered a heavy 96-run defeat at the hands of South Africa.
But it all changed rapidly over the next set of games in the group. Pakistan, being Pakistan, stunned South Africa while Sri Lanka lifted its game remarkably to get past India. Now, they’re in a virtual quarter-final with the winner set to take on England in the semi-final.
Pakistan bowlers, except for Mohammad Amir, were hammered by the top-order Indian batsmen but they made amends against South Africa whose batting line-up has several match-winners like A B de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim (2/20) and paceman Hasan Ali (3/24) bowled beautifully to restrict the Proteas to a meagre 219 for 8.
Babar Azam (31 not out) and Shoaib Malik (16 not out) got Pakistan ahead of their required run-rate to secure a 19-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis method when rain stopped play with their side 119 for three off 27 overs. Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed had attributed the win against South Africa to good bowling against a strong side and he would look for another such display against the Lankans today.
For Sri Lanka, the bad news is Kusal Perera will be out of action. He is the second Sri Lankan to be ruled out of the ICC Champions trophy. However, the return of Angelo Mathews will be a big boost for them.
In this game, the Sri Lankan side may play with a nothing-to-lose attitude but they must be careful of not losing their way. They have a young batting line-up and their chances of succumbing to the pressure remain high.
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are upbeat after their upset victories and it s difficult to pick a favourite for tomorrow s match.
History, however, favours Pakistan as they have won twice as against one by Sri Lanka in Champions Trophy. Overall, in the 147 matches the two sides have played against each other, Pakistan have won 84 as against 58 by Sri Lanka. One match was tied while four games ended as no result .
Most of the matches in this event have been affected by rain and if a washed out happens tomorrow, it will be a complex calculation to decide who make it to the semifinals.
Sarfraz Khan (capt.), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammed Amir, Shadab Khan and Rumman Raees.
Angelo Mathews (capt.), Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickewalla, Chamara Kapugedara, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Sekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara.