ODI series preview: Pakistan v Sri Lanka

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After an intriguing Test series, Pakistan and Sri Lanka face off in a five-match ODI series that is sure to provide some quality cricket.

After an intriguing Test series, Pakistan and Sri Lanka face off in a five-match ODI series that is sure to provide some quality cricket.

Both sides have been more prolific in coloured clothing than in the Test arena in recent years; so many of the players appear more comfortable in the hit-and-run version of the game rather than the protracted game of patience that is Test cricket.

Beaten finalists at this year's World Cup, Sri Lanka find themselves sitting in second spot on the ICC one-day rankings. But while their long-term record is impressive, Tillakaratne Dilshan's men have lost their last two one-day series, first against England and then Australia.

That is not to say that Sri Lanka are a team on the wane, they're just suffering an indifferent period. Geoff Marsh's men possess great talent in the batting and bowling departments, with perhaps their only concern a lack of bowling depth, particularly with spin king Muttiah Muralitharan having retired.

Mental fragility appeared to plague Sri Lanka at times during the Tests, with few batsmen able to really apply themselves. This is less likely to prove a problem in the limited overs arena and the return of Upal Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal should add extra impetus.

On paper, Pakistan are less impressive. But the thing with Pakistan is that what appears on paper doesn't often translate into the same on the field, whether the performances be impressive or dire.

With off-field drama having long overshadowed proceedings, Pakistan have the opportunity to begin a new era, free from suspicion in which their play is the primary talking point.

There is no reason why this era can't begin with a one-day series win to add to the recently acquired Test success.

All-rounder Shahid Afridi returns to the fray and his presence should prove a boost – if he can stay focused.

Wahab Riaz misses out on a spot but the fast bowling line-up looks impressive despite his absence, with Juniad Khan, Aizaz Cheema and Sohail Tanvir more than capable of backing up Umar Gul.

Despite a poor series against Zimbabwe, Shoaib Malik retains his place. Having had so many chances, one feels that with the emergence of a number of young players, Malik needs to perform now to ensure he has a future.

The first three games of the series will be played in Dubai, the venue of the second Test where Pakistan claimed their win and rolled through Sri Lanka with great ease. For the most part the wickets in the United Arab Emirates have not provided too many problems and the batsman should find the going fairly easy.

<b>Key men:</b>

<i>Pakistan:</i> Waqar Younis has told <b>Shahid Afridi</b> that he needs to stop talking and start performing on the field, and the former skipper's contribution will be crucial to the Pakistan cause. A genuine match-winner, Afridi will set the tone even though he's not leading the side.

<i>Sri Lanka:</i> It's rare that one man can totally transform a team, but <b>Lasith Malinga</b> has that impact on Sri Lanka. His ability to take wickets and restrict the runs is invaluable and there is surely no better death bowler around. If the rest of the squad can provide him with sufficient support then Malinga can seal the deal for Sri Lanka.

<b>Last five head-to-head results:</b>

<b>2011:</b> World Cup, Group A – Pakistan won by 11 runs<br><b>2010:</b> Asia Cup, first match – Sri Lanka won by 16 runs<br><b>2009:</b> Fifth ODI – Pakistan won by 132 runs<br><b>2009:</b> Fourth ODI – Pakistan won by 146 runs<br><b>2009:</b> Third ODI – Sri Lanka won by six wickets

<b>Prediction:</b>

Having gained a bit of momentum in the third Test, <b>Sri Lanka</b> will be feeling upbeat about their chances. The return of Malinga is a massive plus and should be enough to see them sneak the series win.

<a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Online betting</B></a> firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Sky Bet</B></a> have Pakistan and Sri Lanka neck and neck on 10/11 to win the series. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>cricket betting</B></a>.

<b>Squads:</b>

<b>Pakistan:</b> Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq.

<b>Sri Lanka:</b> Tillakaratne Dilshan (captain), Upul Tharanga, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Jeevan Mendis, Kosala Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Thissara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dilhara Fernando, Suraj Randiv

<b>Fixtures:</b>

First ODI: November 11, Dubai<br>Second ODI: November 14, Dubai<br>Third ODI: November 18, Dubai<br>Fourth ODI: November 20, Sharjah<br>Fifth ODI: November 23, Abu Dhabi

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