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Can Sri Lanka change its Cup history against Pakistan?

R.K. Radhakrishnan

R. Premadasa Stadium favours the team batting first


IN RIGHT EARNEST:Pakistan's Umar Akmal, seen playing football on the eve of the match against Sri Lanka on Friday, is in great form.

COLOMBO: History is stacked against Sri Lanka as it takes on Pakistan on Saturday in its first World Cup match against that country in 19 years. Pakistan has won each one of the six encounters when the teams have met in a World Cup match and the last game was in Perth in 1992.

But then, form has a one-way relationship with history. Form makes history. On paper, Sri Lanka looks more balanced and has proved that it can deliver, last year it won all but six of the 26 ODIs it played. Pakistan goes into the match with a record that does no justice to the talent in the team — the recent New Zealand series win was preceded by losses in nine series.

No wonder then that Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara does not remember his country's World Cup record against Pakistan. He made his debut in Galle in 2000 and his memories begin with Sri Lanka beating Pakistan comfortably in that match.

“I wasn't aware of that history,” he said when asked what he thought of the dubious record. “Yeah, may be it is time to try and change it now. We are looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully if we can do our basics right, we have a great chance…We are not going to take them lightly. We will give our best and I hope that's enough,” he said.

Sri Lanka wants to field its best team for the match, but is still not sure of paceman Lasith Malinga's fitness. “We want to make sure that he is 100 per cent fit because this is a long tournament. He is pretty fit for selection for this one (tomorrow's match). Hopefully, if the physio clears him, we can have him in the team tomorrow.”

Pakistan's woes

Pakistan's worries begin with the fact that its openers did not click against a soft opposition in its tournament opener in Sooriyawewa. The start was too sluggish, the team lost too many wickets during the batting Power Play without much increase in scoring.

Coach Waqar Younis affirmed the team's faith in the openers and highlighted the past record of Ahmed Shehzad and said that he should not be judged on one match. On the performance during the batting Power Play in the last match against Kenya, he said: “When you lose early wickets, you get under pressure and then, you know, it takes a while to build up momentum…We will try to make sure that we do not repeat the mistakes we made in the last game.”

The trend in the R. Premadasa Stadium – that it is disadvantageous for the team batting second – might just change because of the new pitch. Commenting on this, Sangakkara, who played on the pitch in the run-up to the tournament, said that on the re-laid pitch the ball came “pretty well even during the lights.”

So far 72 day/night ODIs have been played in the ground. The team batting first has won 44 times.

The teams (from):

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva and Upul Tharanga

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Mohamed Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz and Asad Shafiq.

Umpires: Daryl Harper and Ian Gould. Third Umpire: Nigel Llong. Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Match starts at 2.30 p.m.

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