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Saturday, 26 February 2011

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It will be a game to savour:

Lanka-Pakistan shoot out today

Sri Lanka who waltzed to victory against Canada in their first outing, will not have it easy when they front up to Pakistan in a Group ‘A’ match in the 2011 World Cup under lights at the R Premadasa Stadium today with umpires calling play at 2-30 p m.

Cricket of a high order is expected and it points to a no quarter asked or given game. Tickets for this clash have all been snapped up and a full house is expected to watch thrill-a-minute cricket.

Of particular joy to the spectators - both Sri Lanka and Pakistan is the lifting of the bans on bringing ‘papare, papare bands’ and flags with poles to the ground.

And when it comes to spectator participation, while the majority will support Sri Lanka, Pakistan too will not suffer for want of spectator support. So cricket fans while enjoying the action in the middle can also soak in the rattling and rocking and baila sounds of the musicians.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan enter the stadium which is going to be theatre of war having had easy pickings in their outings against Canada and Kenya and the Lankans go out with a slight advantage because of home conditions and playing before their home crowds.

However the final victors will be the team able to cope with the tremendous pressure. Limited over cricket is a pressure game and the team able to ride it will win.

Sri Lanka did not want to risk their potential match winning sling bowler Lasith Malinga against Canada. But reports have it that he has recovered well to lead the attack.

He will probably be let loose in short bursts. His job will be to stall the Pakistan openers Mohammed Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad from installing a launching pad for their big batting guns to fire.

Skipper Sahid Afridi will be hoping that the Akmal brothers - Kamran and Umar, Younis Khan, Misah-ul-Haq and Abdur Razzaq will continue their big scoring acts. Afridi failed to join in the run making act against Kenya. But this could be the game he has been waiting for put on show his ruthless hitting.

The Pakistanis have in Shoaib Akhtar the ‘Rawlapindi Express’ who can mow down any formidable batting fortress. If he strikes a line and length and stay on rails, he could unsettle Sri Lankan openers Upul Tharanga and Tillekeratne Dilshan and the other front line batsmen. All rounder Abdur Razzaq, Umar Gul, Rehman and Hafeez are all capable bowlers and the Lankan batsmen better be watch them.

But Afridi a leg spinner of high class and who not being among the wickets often showed what he can achieve if he finds a pitch helpful like the one in Suriyawewa. His figures of 5 for 16 tells the tale.

But what the Pakistanis need is to jell as one destructive unit. Individually they are brilliant. But that brilliance will not count if they cannot play as a team.

Sri Lanka will once again look to the openers, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, Kapugedera ‘if he plays’ Thilan Samarawera and Angelo Mathews to pile on the runs. One of them must endeavour to bat out the full quota of overs.

Malinga and Kulasekera are likely to share the white ball with Angelo Matthews for support, while the spin department will be in the capable hands of Muttiah Muralitheran and Ajantha Mendis.

The team winning the toss will not hesitate to bat. The wicket will be ideal for stroke making early on and once it begins to wear off would be bowling friendly.

As to the teams - the captains will decide once they have a look at the wicket.

Over then to the picturesque looking R Premadasa Stadium and a game to savour.

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