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Preview: Pakistan and Sri Lanka Lock Horns for an Unexpected Glory
ICC Champions Trophy

Preview: Pakistan and Sri Lanka Lock Horns for an Unexpected Glory

The Road till Here

Do or Die. The Monday afternoon encounter between Pakistan and Sri Lanka can be simplified in these three words. Before the start of the Champions Trophy, no one expected these teams to end up in the position they are today. A win for either team means that they'll qualify for an unexpected semi-final, while a washout will take Sri Lanka to the next knockout round. Both teams have come up here on a high. Pakistan beat the world’s no. 1 side South Africa in their last group match whereas Sri Lanka beat the no. 2 side India to stake their claim at the trophy they shared in 2002.

Both teams last met each other in a similar situation. Pakistan had to beat this opposition in a bilateral series in Sri Lanka to qualify for this tournament. Azhar Ali and his men triumphed with a 3-2 win. Today the laurels for a win will not only be a semi-final spot but will also ease the winner's passage to an automatic qualification for World Cup 2019.

Pakistan will be more confident than Sri Lanka as they enjoy a 2-1 lead against them in ICC Champions Trophy games. Overall they enjoy a lead of 84-58 in all ODIs.

What to Expect

Sri Lanka are without their most experienced batsman Upul Tharanga who was banned for 2 ODIs after he was found guilty of slow over-rate in his team's opening encounter. They have now lost Kusal Perera due to a hamstring injury but his replacement Dhananjaya de Silva may fly straight to the playing XI on Monday.

Pakistan on the other hand had lost Wahab Riaz to injury. His replacement Rumman Raees has already joined the team and is available for selection.

Both teams are not at their usual level of competitiveness, and both suffer from a wounded reputation. Both sides have a near shameful record since the World Cup and desperately need this win for their fans back home.

Probable XI

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera/Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Asela Gunaratne, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga & Nuwan Pradeep.

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (C), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan/Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hassan Ali & Junaid Khan.

Players to watch out

Babar Azam has made a name for himself in a very short international career. He has been the most consistent of all Pakistan batsmen but he is yet to make a name for himself on a grander stage. The 22-year old top order batsman and the fastest to 1000 ODI runs has recorded scores of 8 and 31*in the tournament so far, including a score of just 1 run against Bangladesh in the warm-up game. Playing his first ICC tournament, he certainly would want to improve on that.

Danushka Gunathilaka only got his chance in the tournament after Upul Tharanga had to sit out because of his ban. He made it count with a career-best 76 against India and created a platform for Mathews, Perera and Gunaratne to take off from. The left-handed opener made his international debut in 2015 but has featured in only 20 ODIs since then. He was called back to the national squad after a successful series for Sri Lanka A against England Lions where he scored two half-centuries and a hundred in four games.

Stats and Trivia

Sri Lanka has the worst Win-Loss Ratio among all Champions Trophy teams since the last World Cup.

Pakistan has 84 wins against Sri Lanka in ODIs, the most by any Asian team against a single opposition.

If Babar Azam scores a 100 in this game, he'll be the Fastest Batsman to 6 ODI hundreds.