Barely-believable whitewash looms over rattled Pakistan

Posted 08/10/2019
In 2019, Pakistan have won only one out of six T20Is.
In 2019, Pakistan have won only one out of six T20Is. © Getty

Pakistan had won 29 out of 33 T20Is since the World T20 in 2016, a run which got them a clear lead at the top of the T20I rankings. That was until 2019 happened. This year, they've won only one match out of six.

It's not out of the ordinary for a team to have a lean run in T20 cricket. It would be if they didn't have one. So under normal circumstances, Pakistan deserve to be cut some slack. Instead, their captain Sarfaraz Ahmed is having to face questions on the lines of why their bowling has been so 'bekaar' (useless), in post match presentations. Their coach Misbah-ul-Haq is giving statements of despair about how the team is struggling in every department. Even for Pakistan - historically a team governed by emotion - this appears to be a bit excessive. But it really isn't, because there's nothing normal about these circumstances.

Sri Lanka - without 10 first-choice players, Sri Lanka - without T20 bowling phenom Lasith Malinga - have come to Pakistan and sealed the series 0-2 with a match to spare after going down in the ODI series. They've unearthed new heroes like Bhanuka Rajapaksa and polished some emerging ones like Wanindu Hasaranga, while Pakistan have gone back to old disappointments - a major source of criticism levelled towards Misbah, which has only been aggravated following Umar Akmal's consecutive golden ducks coupled with Ahmed Shehzad's failures. And most crushingly, they've lost at home. World No. 1 Pakistan losing to World No. 8 Sri Lanka's second-string version in Lahore, twice.

Pakistan's bowling was progressively worse from the first T20I to the second, while they lost two wickets inside 13 runs in both of their run-chases, leading to underwhelming batting performances. Coming back to their best rhythm could be as easy as Babar Azam recapturing his magic touch at the top, or Shadab Khan finding his mojo again. But a win tomorrow, in a dead-rubber, wouldn't be as alleviating as a loss would be damaging.

When: Wednesday, October 9 (6.30pm local)

Where: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore

What to expect: Less excitement. But on a more serious note, pretty much the same conditions as the previous two matches which have seen the pitch slow down. Pakistan had opted to chase in the first T20I, something which Sri Lanka took a lesson from and batted when they won the toss. So it's probably instructive of how the pitch slowing down might be a greater factor than the dew.

What they said:

"Losing is never good, especially against a team that is without their major players, and it's an eye-opener" - Pakistan coach-cum-chief-selector Misbah-ul-Haq

Team news:

Pakistan: Do they respond to the criticism and drop Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad? Or do they stick to their guns? Now that they've gone down that route, and with the series already lost, what's one more opportunity. If not, Haris Sohail can be called upon. In the bowling, Mohammad Nawaz presents a potentially restrictive option that could be hard to ignore given Shadab's struggles.

Sri Lanka: The visitors played with the same team in both matches, but with the series sealed, they might look to give some of the others an opportunity.

Squads:

Pakistan: Babar Azam, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed(w/c), Iftikhar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz, Usman Shinwari, Fakhar Zaman, Wahab Riaz

Sri Lanka: Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka(c), Shehan Jayasuriya, Isuru Udana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Minod Bhanuka(w), Lakshan Sandakan, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Pradeep, Angelo Perera, Lahiru Madushanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Lahiru Kumara, Oshada Fernando

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