▶ Sri Lanka may have beaten Pak­istan in both Tests, but re­cent form in limited-overs cricket has been hor­ren­dous, writes Paul Radley

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It feels like we have been here be­fore. Not too long ago, ei­ther. Pak­istan v Sri Lanka in the UAE? It should be a fore­gone con­clu­sion, right?

Angelo Mathews and La­sith Malinga, two of Sri Lanka’s lead­ing per­form­ers – as well as re­cent cap­tains – are ab­sent in­jured. Sri Lanka’s re­cent form in the for­mat has been hor­ren­dous – the po­lar op­po­site to their hosts.

There are plenty of rea­sons, though, that the out­come of the five-match se­ries, start­ing at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium to­day, is any­thing but a given.

Form book fails

If form is any­thing to go by, this se­ries should be no con­test. Last time they played, Pak­istan claimed the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in stun­ning fash­ion in the UK. Sri Lanka, mean­while, were sum­mar­ily white­washed by In­dia.

Still, though, we have al­ready has ev­i­dence in Dubai this past week that logic and his­tory of­ten count for noth­ing in cricket, after Sri Lanka com­pleted a clean­sweep in the Test se­ries.

And Upul Tha­ranga, Sri Lanka’s ODI cap­tain, says his side’s morale is high be­cause of the Test wins. “Pak­istan’s re­cent per­for­mance in the one-day game have been bril­liant,” Tha­ranga said.

“They have al­ways been a good team, and we are miss­ing a few of our main play­ers. We have con­fi­dence, and the play­ers have a lot of con­fi­dence be­cause of the win in the Test se­ries.”

After the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy [win], this is our first ODI se­ries. The guys are very mo­ti­vated and ready to per­form well SAR­FRAZ AHMED Pak­istan cap­tain

Big­ger Tests

Fair to say, Pak­istan are chas­tened by the Test se­ries loss.

Sri Lanka’s achieve­ment was mo­men­tous: no team had beaten Pak­istan in a full se­ries in the Emi­rates be­fore, and Pak­istan has not lost at “home” – in ei­ther Pak­istan, UAE or Eng­land – in the long for­mat for 10 years.

The side looked to have lost some of its iden­tity, too, with a mud­dled game plan that went away from its usual fo­cus on spin.

Sar­fraz Ahmed, the cap­tain, is hop­ing for an up­lift now his play­ers have swapped whites for the limited-overs green.

“After the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy [win], this is our first ODI se­ries,” Sar­fraz said.

“The guys are very mo­ti­vated and ready to per­form well. Hope­fully we can con­tinue to per­form.”

Happy fam­i­lies

Imam-ul-Haq was al­ways go­ing to feel the weight of his fa­mous name after he chose cricket as a ca­reer path.

When he showed great prom­ise for Pak­istan in the Un­der 19 World Cup in UAE in 2014, the first ques­tion on most peo­ple’s lips was: “What does Un­cle In­za­mam think?”

To make mat­ters more com­pli­cated, the 21-year-old left­hander has been granted his first call-up to the squad on the watch of his cel­e­brated rel­a­tive.

Imam has his work cut out to make his own name in the game, but In­za­mam, Pak­istan’s chief se­lec­tor, is con­fi­dent.

“If you say that he is my nephew, then the se­lec­tion was tough,” In­za­mam said. “But if you see the per­for­mance which he has given, they’re good.”

No Amir, no prob­lem

In the fi­nal days of the Test se­ries, Mickey Arthur, Pak­istan’s coach, was do­ing morn­ing shifts with the ODI play­ers at the ICC Academy, be­fore head­ing the two kilo­me­tres across Dubai Sports City for the Test at the sta­dium in the af­ter­noon.

De­spite the long hours, and the in­clement re­sults, he ap­peared en­er­gised at nets. Per­haps it was be­cause of the num­ber of young, tal­ented play­ers that were around, un­scarred by as­so­ci­a­tion with the Tests.

Us­man Khan Shin­wari, the left-arm fast-bowler who has his chance be­cause of in­jury to Mo­hammed Amir, is one who Arthur is ex­cited by.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to it, I think Shin­wari is a very, very good bowler,” Arthur said.

“He has pace, he bowls well with the new ball, he bowls very well at the death.

“I think he is go­ing to be out­stand­ing for us, and he will cer­tainly bring a lot of en­ergy.”

Win your bat­tles

Pak­istan had been so ir­re­sistible in Test matches in the UAE this decade be­cause they were the mas­ters of win­ning the key phases of play. That lapsed in the 2-0 loss to Sri Lanka.

Sar­fraz is hope­ful his play­ers will be more in tune with the short, sharp na­ture of limited-overs cricket.

His op­po­site num­ber is also warn­ing his col­leagues they must be on their met­tle for the whole 100 overs.

“The Test team did really well, by stick­ing to the ba­sics,” Tha­ranga said.

“When you go to a one-day game, it is a short pe­riod, not like in the Test. You have to win more bat­tles, from the first ball. You have to be at 100 per cent all the time.”

Chris Whi­teoak / The Na­tional

By win­ning the two-Test se­ries Sri Lanka proved that his­tory counts for noth­ing

Sar­fraz Ahmed

Upul Tha­ranga

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