Preview – Pakistan aim for a whitewash in Lahore
Pakistan had had to walk a long and winding road in its bid to host international cricket again on its soil. It has been a slow and gradual process that began with the tour of Zimbabwe in 2015. Lahore then hosted a PSL final and a three-match T20I series against an ICC World XI this year.
Sunday will see Sri Lanka return to Lahore eight years after it came under a terrorist attack a few hundred meters away from Gaddafi stadium. Two of the team’s coaching staff members - Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan Tillakaratne – were on that Sri Lankan team bus as players back in March 2009. Umpire Ahsan Raza, who was hit by multiple bullets with one injuring his right lung, will officiate the contest.
This all, however, will be put aside for three hours when the first ball is bowled. Pakistan sealed the series Friday night in a last over thriller. Pakistan’s bowling has been the difference between the two sides. It removed the whole Lankan batting line-up in the first match for a meagre 103 and then initiated a collapse of epic proportions in the next match — taking the last eight wickets for 14 runs in 3.1 overs.
The provincial capital has been decorated with the banners welcoming Sri Lankan. Fans are also taking to social media to thank the visitors for touring their country. A large Pakistani contingent in the stands of Shaikh Zayid stadium expressed its love for the Sri Lankan side when Thisara Perera was called up during the post-match ceremony at the end of the second T20I by erupting in a huge cheer.
Though Sarfraz Ahmed has asked his nation to extend the same level of support to Sri Lanka as it did to the World XI, he will put all of his efforts to thump a depleted Sri Lankan side 3-0 in front of the home crowd. But, considering how the Lankans put up a fight in the second T20I after a seven-wicket drubbing 24 hours ago, it won’t be a mean task.
A billboard installed at the Nishtar Park Complex welcomes the Sri Lankan team - Picture: Ahsan Iftikhar Nagi/Cricingif
After a scintillating cameo with the bat, and impeccable line and length bowling in the second of the three-match series, Shadab Khan will be in the spotlight. The all-rounder smoked Vikum Sanjaya for a six on the fourth ball of the last over to take his side closer to a series win and completed the victory with a gentle push down the ground to steal a double on the penultimate ball in his 8-ball 16*. He varied his lengths – and hurled a few quicker ones – in the four overs he bowled on Friday night, leaking only 14 runs without conceding a boundary.
The touring party will look to Danushka Gunathilaka – the leading run-scorer of the series with 69 - to help them accumulate more runs in the powerplay overs. The left-hander’s solid footwork helped him negate the Pakistani bowling in the last match as he brought up his maiden T20I fifty, which was embellished by four boundaries and a towering six with a flick off Hasan Ali’s bowling.
Most recent first
Pakistan: W W W L W
Sri Lanka: L L L L W
- Pakistan has lost only one out of the five T20Is played at the venue.
- Mohammad Hafeez needs two wickets to become second Pakistani all-rounder to have 50 wickets and 1000 runs in the shorter format after Shahid Afridi.
Ahsan Iftikhar Nagi tweets here