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Posts Tagged ‘nuwan kulasekara’

Yesterday’s recovery from Pakistan has proved to be somewhat of a dead cat bounce, as the tourists lost their last 9 wickets for just 35 runs (only the top three made it into double figures) to allow Sri Lanka to wrap up a historic win (and their first home series win against Pakistan) within three days.

Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara took 5-99 and 4-37 respectively for Sri Lanka as the hosts restricted Pakistan to a lead of just 170, before their batsmen reached 171/3 in less than 32 overs to wrap up a victory which seemed improbable 2 hours earlier.

For Pakistan, the brief moment of hope has once again faded, and the number of times that their batsmen were given out LBW is cause for concern. For Sri Lanka, there is encouragement that the absence of Murali need not preclude significant progress, and that the pace bowling attack is robust enough to cope without Vaas and Malinga.

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Pakistan’s strong record in Sri Lanka is taking a beating. After the tourists’ collapse from a strong position in the First Test, they have managed to concede a first-innings deficit within less than a day’s play in the Second Test.

Kulasekara, Thushara and Mendis all finished with impressive figures for Sri Lanka as Pakistan made a mere 90 runs, with only three Pakistani batsmen making it into double figures (Shoaib Malik did hang around for more than two hours, but made only 39 not out). All this after Younis Khan won the toss and elected to bat.

In reply, the hosts passed Pakistan’s total in just over 26 overs, and now have a strangehold on the series, no mean feat given the big names that are absent from their side.

For Pakistan, it’s difficult to see a way back, and questions are already being asked about team selection and the batting order.

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The build-up to the imminent Test series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan may have brought up memories of two recent meetings between the sides – the recent World Twenty20 final, and of course the sadly curtailed Test series of four months ago – but there’s change afoot for both sides.

For the hosts, Kumar Sangakkara takes over as captain, whilst Muralitharan, Vaas and Malinga are all absent, opening up opportunities for the likes of Angelo Matthews and Suraj Randiv to make debuts (and for Kulasekara to front the Test attack). Sri Lanka have never won a Test series at home against Pakistan, and in fact have only won a single home Test against the tourists, but their batting form is impressive enough to make the sorts of scores that can remove defeat from the equation.

For Pakistan, Mohammad Yousuf returns from his self-imposed (and self-rescinded) ICL exile, whilst Mohammad Aamer, supremely impressive at times in the World Twenty20, could be in line for a Test debut. The feelgood factor from that tournament hasn’t worn off yet, but bowling Sri Lanka out twice will be a challenge even for an attack featuring the brilliance and form of Umar Gul.

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India go into the ODI series against Sri Lanka riding a run of good form – the tourists beat their hosts 3-2 last year without Sehwag or Tendulkar, and have since pummelled England 5-0 at home. Aside from tournaments such as the Kitply Cup and Asia Cup, their last series defeat was way back in 2007, and their professed desire to be the best in the world is constantly gaining credibility, especially now that the pace attack is so strong.

That pace attack is likely to comprise Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and one other, given the fact that chief spinner Harbhajan is injured. The batting line-up looks as strong as ever, even if Tendulkar isn’t the archetypical modern ODI opener.

For Sri Lanka, much will depend on whether Muralitharan and Mendis can improve on the less-than-exemplary performances they put in the last time these two sides met in an ODI series (which of course followed a Test series where they had made mincemeat of India’s batsmen). The former is poised on the verge of a world record, which should be motivation enough. If those two take wickets and Nuwan Kulasekara continues his recent good form, India will have their work cut out for them.

Nevertheless, India will be favourites, given their form and the sheer quality of their side.

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For Pakistan, the main feeling ahead of the ODI series against Sri Lanka is probably novelty – they’ve hardly played any international cricket of late. The matches they did play in 2008, though, generally ended in victory (although many were against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh). The side has suffered the not inconsiderable loss of Mohammad Yousuf to the ICL, and Shoaib Akhtar‘s fitness is a concern (he looks set to miss the first ODI of this series), but Younis Khan and Salman Butt are both capable of making big scores, and if they can stand up to the twin spin challenge of Murali and Mendis, then they both have a chance of being the first Pakistani batsman to score a century against Sri Lanka since October 2004.

Sri Lanka’s past form has been almost as impressive as Pakistan’s, but their near miss against Bangladesh in the Tri-Series final (and, of course, their defeat in the same competition) has left them with a point to prove. If the spin twins play to their potential, and Nuwan Kulasekara does a decent job in filling Vaas‘ shoes, then Pakistan’s batsmen may be on the back foot. If Sri Lanka win the series 3-0, they’ll rocket up the ODI rankings from 7th to 4th (leapfrogging Pakistan on the way up), so there’s plenty at stake for both sides.

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India were all out for 103 in the fifth and final ODI against Sri Lanka, allowing the hosts a handsome 112 run win under the D/L method as consolation in the face of losing the series.

India’s collapse (only Kohli managed to score more than 20) was mainly orchestrated by Ajantha Mendis (4-10) and Nuwan Kulasekara (4-40), proving that India’s batsmen are still as vulnerable as ever.

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