CARDIFF: Pakistan playing against Sri Lanka in their duel for semifinal slot 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 hope to keep the tempo and the confidence of their big win over world number one South Africa in today’s all important match against Sri Lanka.
Both teams going through a transition phase with greats like Mahela Jayawarnde and Kumar Sangakkara gone from Lankan team and Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq retired from Pakistan ranks.
Both the teams opened their campaign with big defeats, as Pakistan losing by 124 runs to India and Sri Lanka went down by 96 runs to South Africa. But they bounced back with upset wins over formidable and higher ranked opponents, South Africa and India.
Pakistan, who kept the same 12, would not like to tamper with their winning combination but can be tempted to give debut to seaming all-rounder Fahim Ashraf if they take into account the fact that Sri Lanka play spinners well. That could leave leg-spinner Shadab Khan out of the eleven.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed knows the conditions in Cardiff very well, having scored a brilliant 90 in a tough 303-run chase against England last year.
Also in the knowledge of the Sophia Garden ground is left-arm spinner Imad Wasim who starred with both bat and ball against England plus for the fact that he was born in the nearby town of Swansea.
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 in their win against South Africa.
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.
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 is difficult to pick a favourite for the match.
History, however, favours Pakistan as they have won twice as against one by Sri Lanka in Champions Trophy.
Most of the matches in this event have been affected by rain and if a wash out happens today, it will benefit Sri Lanka to gain entry in semifinals owing to the team’s superior run rate.
Pakistan: 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.
Sri Lanka: 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.