Sri Lanka vs Pakistan | Wednesday 22 July | Colombo | 11:00
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews blamed dramatic changes in the playing surface for their downfall in their last outing with Pakistan. The tourists are now 2-1 up in the ODI series and will be looking forward to securing the victory with a rematch in Colombo. Play was suspended during the third ODI as fights between rival supporters broke out in the stands and rocks were hurled pitchward. Not even stadium violence could prevent Pakistan whirling their way to an easy victory that raises a lot of questions for a Sri Lankan side who only last year looked among the strongest in ODI cricket.
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 8/10
Sri Lanka conceded 316 and only took two wickets with their attack (two dismissals coming from run-outs) as Pakistan amassed a stiff total to chase in the third ODI in Colombo. Not many sides chase down a score of 300+ in Sri Lanka and the hosts didn’t come close. They were bowled out for 181 as pressure created by Pakistan’s spinners backed the Sri Lankan batsmen into a corner. Mathews refuses to blame the bowlers for the loss; his attack delivered a few cheap overs at the death but the mistake was made in the makeup of the bowling lineup. Sri Lanka have pursued a tactic of employing only two specialist bowlers, leaving four all-rounders to deliver the lion’s share of the innings overs. The result was a lack of penetration as Pakistan threatened to cross 350. In Mathews’ defence, the pitch did begin to turn in the second innings and left his batsmen with little hope of reigning in the target. Thisara Perera came under fire from the captain after the match as his return of one wicket and 28 runs in the series is far too inconsistent for Mathews’ liking. With Tillakaratne Dilshan the only elder statesman left in the Sri Lankan top order following the retirements of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, the form of Lahiru Thirimanne in nailing down his spot at number three is vitally important for the future of the side.
The Pakistani top order all made meaningful contributions with all of the top six crossing thirty in an ODI for the first time in their history. It was a consummate batting performance in which Pakistan looked hardly troubled. Sarfraz Ahmed played a gem of an innings for his 77 from 74 balls and could’ve reached three figures had he not been run out shortly before the final push of the innings. Azhar Ali also became the quickest Pakistani batsman to 1000 ODI runs. Upon setting a very competitive total, Pakistan managed to also take wickets at regular intervals and prevented a repeat of Sri Lanka’s explosive success in Pallekele. Yasir Shah was once again among the wickets, picking up four, and his rise to prominence has come at the best time for his country. Pakistan’s spin contingent has been decimated in the wake of the ICC cracking down on illegal bowling actions. Mohammad Hafeez has been banned from bowling for a year after failing the ICC’s testing process while Saeed Ajmal’s threat has been diminished significantly by changing his action to meet the guidelines. The former ODI world number one (who still retains eighth place in the ICC bowling rankings despite having not played an ODI since last year), Ajmal can’t even find a place in the team.
Sri Lankan fans should have known the outcome of the third ODI as soon as Pakistan won the toss. Batting first is paramount in Colombo; the last seven ODI contests at the ground have been won by the team setting the target. The ground is notorious for taking turn later in the game and making scoring extremely difficult. There is basically rain guaranteed but hopefully it is merely a short thunderstorm.
VERDICT: Pakistan 21/20
Sri Lanka’s batting hasn’t really clicked throughout the series and their bowling attack looked short of genuine wicket-takers in their last outing. Pakistan’s balance to the side has been affected by the banning of Hafeez but with their batsmen looking strong and always possessing a good attack, I can see the tourists securing the series here.