Pakistan v Sri Lanka: Fifth ODI Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

We preview the fourth ODI between Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be played on Monday 23 October at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. 

Pakistan have not whitewashed Sri Lanka in an ODI series since 1989 - and haven't achieved a five-nil scoreline over any team since 2008. Opportunity, indeed, knocks to do both on Monday.

Sri Lanka are on the brink of a second successive whitewash, after being blanked by India in August - and are still searching for a first ODI victory against any team other than Zimbabwe since April.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka | Monday, 23 October | Sharjah Cricket Stadium | 12:00

 To Win Match
Pakistan 31/100 | Tie 35/1 | Sri Lanka 51/20

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Pakistan will go into the fifth and final fixture with ODI cricket's best bowler and all-rounder, after Hasan Ali and Mohammad Hafeez rose to the pinnacle of their respective codes in the ICC rankings on Friday. The latter, however, will be hampered by another report on his action. The spinner has been formally scrutinised three times in as many years but can continue bowling until tests after the series.

Hafeez's consistent contribution with the ball in particular - and Shoaib Malik's solid stretch of form with the bat - is exactly what Pakistan required from their veterans. The duo have stood firm, while the younger players find their feet in an ever-evolving unit. This has been entirely key in a standout year, and bodes well for more of the same to start the new week.

The selection of Usman Khan ahead of Rumman Raees for the fourth match was a good call. Pakistan need to test their seam bench strength in the absence of Mohammad Amir - and there is no reason Khan shouldn't play again despite enduring an expensive debut. Junaid Khan would do well to mentor his fellow southpaw seamer more.

Fakhar Zaman, meanwhile, needs to conclude the series with a big score. He has pledged plenty with four solid starts, but failed to deliver more than 43 on each occasion. The selectors acted quickly in sidelining the under-performing Ahmed Shehzad for Imam-ul-Haq - and Zaman needs to heed the warning signs, too.

Sri Lanka
With some off-field issues around who will or won't travel to Lahore for the third T20I later this month hanging over their heads, Sri Lanka need to quickly switch on again - and make sure they salvage at least one victory from an otherwise plighted series. As unpredictable as their previous affairs with Pakistan have been, the men in green now certainly hold the historical ascendancy.

They still aren't finding someone to bat around either Upul Tharanga or Lahiru Thirimanne. If even one of the two fail, Sri Lanka fail to put up a score of any significance - each and every time. With Sadeera Samarawickrama still finding his way in ODI cricket and Milinda Siriwardana's stocks waning with every failure, so much responsibility is now squared on the shoulders of Niroshan Dickwella and Dinesh Chandimal.

Player of the Tournament in the Champions Trophy and now atop the ODI bowling rankings, Sri Lanka have to unearth a way to successfully combat Hasan. Even if they are prepared to just see him off for two or three runs per over, they can't let the prolific right-armer continue averaging a remarkable three wickets per match.

The toss is more of a bane than a blessing to Sri Lanka at the moment. They've won three of the four this series, opting to bat first twice. They looked their most effective, though, when bowling first - and Tharanga should highly consider doing so again at a Sharjah venue that could offer early assistance for the seamers.

Verdict: Pakistan (31/100)
Pakistan have won 89 of their 152 ODIs against Sri Lanka and are on course for a 90th. Sri Lanka, then, seem destined for a 20th defeat from their last 25 ODIs.