Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: Third ODI Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

We preview the third ODI between Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be played on Wednesday 18 October at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. 

Pakistan are on the brink of a series victory, which will go a long way in justifying their status as Champions Trophy - and lessen the hurt suffered in Test series defeat to the same opposition recently.

Sri Lanka have less than 48 hours to orchestrate a prompt turnaround, after being largely inadequate with the bat in the second match of this five-fixture affair in the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka | Wednesday, 18 October | Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi | 13:00

To Win Match
Pakistan 36/100 | Tie 35/1 | Sri Lanka 9/4

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While the hosts will be pleased with the glut of runs Babar Azam has produced of late, they'll be acutely aware of the need for someone to step up in support. Shoaib Malik did so in the first ODI, but the second saw Azam gather more than 70 percent of the runs produced by the top six batsmen. Opener Ahmed Shehzad, in particular, needs to shake off a lean stretch of form.

Coach Mickey Arthur and company can again take confidence from the efforts of Junaid Khan, Rumman Raees and Hasan Ali in the absence of Mohammad Amir. Injury to the star left-armer hasn't really hampered the trio's pursuits with the ball, If anything, it has empowered them - and will continue to do so for the rest of the series.

Pakistan have unearthed a real gem in Shadab Khan. The 19-year-old all-rounder is impressing at every turn - and speaks volumes for the future of cricket in the country. If not the third ODI, then certainly the fourth or fifth will be the time to unleash Imam-ul-Haq, too. At 21 years old, the nephew of Inzamam-ul-Haq will add to the batting depth.

The third ODI will take place at the same venue as the second. Conditions won't change much, if at all, with another pitch typical of the gulf expected. Sarfraz Ahmmed will have no reason not to bat first again, if triumphant at the toss, but will demand a score substantially stronger than the precarious 219 for nine posted on Monday.

Sri Lanka
Much like Pakistan, the Sri Lankans need someone to step up in support of Upul Tharanga. He collected almost 75 percent of the 150 runs scored by the top eight batsmen in the second match. Kusal Mendis, whose last five ODI innings have yielded just 33 runs, will again be particularly hard pressed in Abu Dhabi.

Sri Lanka have won just four of their 22 ODIs in 2017 - an appalling ratio that could potentially bracket them with Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and other minnows for the foreseeable future. Plagued by a string of injuries, including Angelo Mathews, and hampered by the decision to overlook Lasith Malinga, they are indeed up against it.

Tharanga's decision to opt out of the upcoming third T20I in Lahore on safety grounds hasn't really helped either. A mainstay of the ODI unit, his primary role with the bat - and leadership prowess - will be missed. Sri Lanka can't overthink this now. They must focus on the task at hand: the remainder of the ODI series.

Vishwa Fernando and Seekkuge Prasanna are waiting in the wings - and one would like to see the seamer and leg-spinner picked for Wednesday's showdown, possibly ahead of Jeffrey Vandersay and Akila Dananjaya. That should help rectify the balance of the side - and not leave them too light on bowling options.

Verdict: Pakistan 36/100
With a dominant seam trio and Azam riding high on the back of five consecutive ODI centuries in the UAE, Pakistan won't likely slip - and achieve an unassailable three-nil series lead.