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Pakistan targets Sri Lanka and semis

CARDIFF: Pakistan hoped they keep the tempo and the confidence of their big win over world number South Africa when they face South Asian rivals Sri Lanka in their final Group B match at Cardiff on Monday, the winner of which will get the last berth of the Champions Trophy semi-finals.

Both teams have played many a times in the past but have not played any 50-over game in the last two years, as both have been going through a transition phase with greats like Mahela Jayawarnde and Kumar Sangakkara gone from Sri Lankan outfits and Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq retired from Pakistan’s ranks.

Both the teams had unimpressive stars to their campaign, with Pakistan losing by 124 runs to India in a timid display. Sri Lanka went down by 96 runs to South Africa but they bounced back with upset wins over formidable and higher ranked opponents, India.

Pakistan beat world number one South Africa in a rain interrupted match. Sri Lanka were more emphatic when they chased down a 322-run target against India at The Oval, pushing them back in contention.

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.

Sarfraz acknowledged the fact.

“Yes, we know the ground and have fond memories of our win against England last year, so we can have that confidence,” said Sarfraz. “We did well to bounce back after the India game, so the confidence is there and we have to go out and give our best.”

Sri Lanka will welcome Dhananjaya de Silva who joined the squad as replacement for injured Kusal Perera while seaming all-rounder Thisara Perera was declared fit after being hit on the side of the neck during practice.

Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews admits Pakistan are a dangerous team.

“We have to be at our best to beat them because they are a dangerous side,” said Mathews, who will continue to play only as batsman and will not bowl due to recovering from a hamstring problem.

“We have that much needed confidence after beating India and we know what to do to go forward in this tournament. It is refreshing to have such a talented bunch of players so we are very confident.”

The weather in Cardiff has been kind on Sunday and will continue to be shinning on Monday but just like both the teams, weather is also unpredictable.

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Pakistan targets Sri Lanka and semis

by Shahid Hashmi