Pakistan set to take on new-look Sri Lanka in Karachi today
KARACHI (92 News) – Pakistan, hosting its first one-day international in more than four years, will hope to treat the home crowd with a complete performance as the three-match series against Sri Lanka gets under way at National Stadium, Karachi on Friday.
After a disappointing World Cup campaign, Pakistan, under their new coach Misbahul Haq, and with new faces in the squad, appear to be a motivated lot. They have focused on fitness in the run-up to the series and go into the series with confidence.
The series presents an opportunity for players such as Iftikhar Ahmed, Muhammad Rizwan and Mohammad Nawaz, who are making comebacks into the national side, to establish themselves.
After the World Cup, Sri Lanka put up three complete performances to whitewash Bangladesh in the three-match ODI series at home last month. But with senior players withdrawing from the tour of Pakistan, they face an uphill task in unfamiliar conditions.
They’ll also be worried of stand-in skipper Lahiru Thirimanne’s fitness, as the left-hander had complained of pain in his back while training ahead of the tour.
It’s expected to be a largely cloudy day in Karachi with a few sunny intervals and a gentle breeze. Teams chasing have won four of the last six ODIs at the National Stadium.
Remember the last time
The World Cup fixture between the two teams was washed out. In their last completed game, the final ODI of the five-match series in UAE in October 2017, Usman Shinwari’s 5/34 restricted Sri Lanka to 103 in the 27th over, setting up a comfortable nine-wicket victory and a 5-0 series whitewash. Before that series, they also defeated Sri Lanka in their Champions Trophy clash.
Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed: “History will be made on Friday when Karachi will host the first bilateral ODI series since January 2009. I request all local cricket fans to be part of history so that they can tell the next generation that they were at the National Stadium when an international series was played.”
The Pakistan players, namely Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Usman Shinwari are eager to jump on the opportunity and leave a mark in what promises to be a historic tour.
Fakhar Zaman, who has 1,828 runs ODI runs at an average of 45.70, said: “It is very disappointing to play ‘home’ matches in other countries. It is always a privilege for us to play cricket in front of our home crowd so we all are ecstatic to have this opportunity. “The players have set personal goals and look forward to perform to the best of their abilities to ensure that they entertain the cricket-loving nation. Playing my first ODI match at the home venue is like making an international debut. I have set a target to score either the fastest century or half-century in the series.”
Shadab Khan, who has the experience of 41 ODI matches, which garnered him 56 wickets and 337 runs with the bat, said: “The ODI series against Sri Lanka will be my first 50-over series at home, and I am hopeful that the Test cricket will also resume in the country soon. “The T20I series against Windies was jam-packed and I am looking forward to the see public turning up in large numbers to witness exciting games. Each player is excited to give his best on the home ground.
“I love to bowl alongside Imad and look forward to bowling with him in Karachi. Our roles are identified and we go out there to get our opponents with our spin variations.”
Mohammad Nawaz, who last played for Pakistan in 2018 Asia Cup, said: “I am not only excited to be back in the ODI squad, but also thrilled to be playing in Karachi. I have featured in different leagues all over the world, but there is no parallel of a Pakistani crowd.
“The PSL matches in Pakistan were packed, and it was a great joy to bowl in front of the people, who have so much passion for the game.”
Mohammad Rizwan, the wicketkeeper-batsman who has featured in 32 ODIs to date and has two centuries and three half-centuries, said: “The preparations are complete for the mouth-watering series, and now the wait is for 27 September when both sides will feature in the first ODI match at National Stadium in Karachi. It is always a great to play in front of the local crowd as it gives a great energy to the players to perform.”