Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka currently hold two points each, and the victor of this pivotal clash will advance to the final, scheduled for September 17.
India have already secured their place in the championship match after a commanding 41-run victory over Sri Lanka in a Super Four contest on Tuesday. Rohit Sharma’s squad leads the table with four points.
However, Pakistan face a daunting challenge as they prepare for their crucial encounter with Sri Lanka.
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In all likelihood, Pakistan will be unable to field pacers Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah, both of whom are doubtful due to injuries. As a contingency plan, Pakistan has included Shahnawaz Dahani and Zaman Khan, a 22-year-old slinging fast bowler capable of hitting speeds of 150 kmph, as backups for the remainder of the Asia Cup.
Nonetheless, this is just one of the myriad concerns for Pakistan. Their batting lineup has yet to hit its stride in the tournament, except for a formidable total of 342 for six against minnows Nepal in the Asia Cup opener in Multan.
Primarily, Pakistan heavily relies on their opening duo – Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq – as well as their captain, Babar Azam, to deliver significant runs. Urgently needed are contributions from players like Mohammad Rizwan and Salman Agha.
Iftikhar Ahmed demonstrated his power-hitting abilities with a scintillating century against Nepal, but he must replicate such performances consistently against stronger opponents.
Sri Lanka undoubtedly falls into the category of formidable adversaries. Although Pakistan defeated them by seven wickets in a league match, the past results will not carry much weight in this high-stakes encounter.
Despite the absence of several first-choice players, Sri Lanka, under the leadership of Dasun Shanaka, has proven their mettle by defeating Bangladesh and putting up a fight against India.
Sri Lanka, too, has been plagued by injuries leading up to the tournament, with key players like Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, and Lahiru Kumara ruled out. This has necessitated the fielding of a young and relatively inexperienced side. However, players such as Dunith Wellalage, Matheesha Pathirana, and Maheesh Theekshana have showcased impressive performances throughout the tournament.
With that said, Sri Lanka hopes for greater consistency from their pacers, particularly Kasun Rajitha, who has claimed four wickets in as many matches but has conceded nearly six runs an over.
Sri Lanka may also rely on their spinners to replicate their exceptional performance against India on a pitch offering substantial turn and grip. Left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage’s five-wicket haul dismantled India’s formidable top-order, suggesting that Sri Lanka could prepare a similar pitch to counter Pakistan’s pace battery, led by left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Salman Ali Agha, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Saud Shakeel, Tayyab Tahir (travelling reserve). Shahnawaz Dahani, Zaman Khan (back-ups for injured Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah).
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanaka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis (vice-captain), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Matheesha Pathirana, Kasun Rajitha, Dushan Hemantha, Binura Fernando, Pramod Madushan.