KARACHI: After the long-awaited first One-day International in Karachi falling prey to heavy rains, the scene is now set for Pakistan and Sri Lanka to slug it out in the second fixture of the originally scheduled three-match series here at the National Stadium on Monday.
The ground painted a contrasting canvas on Sunday with the baking sun soaking the entire playing arena — the country’s most populated city — in glorious sunshine which was almost the case on Saturday too.
Sensing the outfield won’t be in readiness — given the massive battering it took from Friday’s rains, leaving large puddles at various spots in the field — to stage the planned match two on Sunday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took on board their Sri Lanka Cricket counterparts and the broadcasters before deciding to make a switch in the previously-decided itinerary after the ground staff requested two days to get the ground in playable conditions.
But in hindsight and considering the dramatic turnaround in the weather at the weekend and notwithstanding the meteorological department’s predictions, which at times are prone to be totally the opposite, it would have been a possibility to organise back-to-back matches on Sunday and Monday to ensure the series was not curtailed.
Both the teams had extended training sessions on Sunday at the far end of the stadium but Sri Lankan interim head coach Rumesh Ratnayake made ample mention of the hot and humid conditions and focus on Pakistan players during his pre-match media conference after his charges spent a lengthy period in the afternoon.
“The weather, for sure, has been a key factor. But having said that we are ready for the challenge of competing against a full-strength Pakistan side and the boys are looking forward to the real contest,” Ratnayake told reporters.
“The biggest challenge this afternoon was countering the heat and humidity following the spells of rain on Friday. Our main focus was obvious on the opposition batsmen and what our bowlers are going to face and of course, do march-related things, which were discussed and implemented during the training session.”
Ratnayake further said Sri Lanka won’t be overawed by the tough ask of playing a strong Pakistan team despite missing 10 of the top players, while stating it would be a golden opportunity for the young brigade in his side.
“The lads have adopted various ways of being keep motivated; one is the challenge of getting accustomed to the conditions and other discussing the Pakistan side. For us, it’s a battle between the giants and Goliaths and they [Pakistan] are obviously the giants here.
“That’s sorts of things can be a great motivating factor for our players. Make no mistake, they are very talented and the potential to surprise Pakistan in these two matches and the T20 series, too.
“As far as our bowling is concerned, we’ve varieties in the shape of left-arm wrist spin [Lakshan Sandakan] and a decent leg-spinning all-rounder like Wanindu Hasaranga. Our pace bowlers have some to prove, particularly the likes of [Lahiru] Kumara and [Kasun] Rajitha, while variation in that department is provided by the left-armer Isuru Udana,” Ratnayake emphasised, while refusing to reveal the Sri Lanka XI for obvious reasons.
Pakistan, who trained under lights, have also not revealed their playing side but leg-spinner Shadab Khan said: “Our preparations have gone well and most of us [in the Pakistan team] looking forward to enjoy the great excitement of playing in front of our own fans in a One-day International for the first time in our life.”
Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, who is also the chief selector, and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed would keep a close eye on the pitch before deciding the makeup of the XI.
The uncertain weather in the past week would also make it tricky for both Sarfraz and his Sri Lankan counterpart Lahiru Thirimanne to decide which option to follow if the flip of the coin goes their way. The pitch, inevitability being kept under covers most of the time, could entice the captain winning the toss to field first and take advantage of the excessive sweating underneath the surface.
PAKISTAN: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Abid Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Usman Khan Shinwari
SRI LANKA: Lahiru Thirimanne (captain), Danushka Gunathilaka, Oshada Fernando, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Angelo Perera, Minod Bhanuka, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Lakshan Sandakan
Umpires: Shozab Raza (Pakistan) and Michael Gough (England)
TV umpire: Joel Wilson (West Indies)
Match referee: David Boon (Australia)
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2019