The spotlight moves to Lahore for the three-match T20I series after Pakistan cruised to victory in the ODI series with a resounding 2-0 margin. The T20 series is pivotal for both teams, given the added context of the upcoming seventh edition of the T20 World Cup that will be held in Australia next year. Both teams would like to kick off their World Cup preparations to get the permutations and combinations right before the marquee tournament.
In 13 T20 matches between the two teams, Pakistan has overpowered Sri Lanka in eight matches. Also, Sarfaraz Ahmed thrives in the shorter format and has steered his side to 29 wins out of 34 matches with an impressive 71% win percentage. That being said, the street smart captain isn't enjoying a good run in international cricket as far as his own batting is concerned.
Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal are never really out of the selectors' radar as they have managed to stage yet another comeback. It will be interesting to see how they perform as they haven't been in the good books of the former head coach and the incumbent bowling coach Waqar Younis.
Babar Azam is definitely the player to watch out for. The modern-day great is the number one ranked T20 batsman and has worked a lot on his power-hitting skills. It's a spectacular sight to see him thread the gaps in the field with surgical precision especially inside the Powerplay overs. He gathered a colossal 578 runs with a century to his name in the T20 Blast 2019 competition in the UK.
Iftikhar Ahmed has also returned to the T20 side after showing solid temperament and power-hitting abilities in the recently concluded ODI series. He also had a successful Pakistan Super League (PSL) and domestic season this year.
Abid Ali, however, is not part of the shortest format despite scoring at a swift strike rate of 110.4 in the last ODI. Perhaps, the plan is to inject more firepower and the selectors might induct Asif Ali into the line-up given his coruscating strokeplay and his ability to finish the innings with a flurry of maximums.
Pakistan are the table-toppers in the ICC T20 rankings and are clear favorites to dominate in the T20 format but we have seen Sri Lankan young guns improve their performance voluminously in the 3rd ODI. Despite the series loss, there were flashes of brilliance observed, evidenced by Danushka Gunathilaka's 147 runs in the series and Dasun Shanaka, the T20 captain, chipping in with useful contributions in both matches. The mammoth partnership between Shehan Jayasuriya and Shanaka of 177 in the first ODI showed the talent and firepower in Sri Lanka's squad. Thus, Pakistan will have to be on top of their game to continue their winning ways.
Media has been abuzz about the fiery pacer, Mohammad Hasnain, who had a very successful Caribbean Premier League outing of late. He was unearthed earlier this year in the PSL. The promising quick bowler hasn't got many chances to showcase his raw pace but this series could be an opportunity for him to unleash his 150kph snorters. Regarding Hasnain's selection, Sarfaraz said, "He didn't get a chance because we had a washout in the ODI series and he couldn't fit in the final 11 but we will try to give him chances in this T20 series."
About Shadab Khan's dip in form skipper said, "I still think he is the best bowler in our side. Although, he is leaking many runs but I fully support him to get back into his rhythm. He is a wicket-taker and a match-winner."
Sri Lanka T20 captain Dasun Shanaka said: "I am happy to lead the team and we will do our best to put up a fight against our very strong hosts." His counterpart Sarfaraz is wary of visitors' young bunch capability and remarked, "We won't take them lightly as they could pull an upset."
As expected, security is beefed up in Lahore but historically, fans have been unfazed by the hassle they had to undergo for watching international cricket in the sprawling metropolis. Sarfaraz has urged the fans to come in large numbers and not get overwhelmed by the security arrangements.
The three-match series will commence tomorrow at Gaddafi Stadium and the match will begin at 6:30 pm Pakistan Standard Time. The remaining T20Is will be played on 7th and 9th October respectively.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Perera, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara