Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga during a practice session, in Pallekele, on Wednesday. (AFP)
Pallekele: The drawn Twenty20 series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan passed in typical whirlwind fashion, and there was nothing to chose between the two sides, thus nicely setting up the five-ODI series, which gets underway at the Pallekele International Stadium on Thursday.
The Sri Lankans have lost five of the last six one-day Internationals against Pakistan, but head into this month’s fixtures knowing a whitewash would move them above England into fourth spot in the ICC ODI table, irrespective of how Alastair Cook’s side fare in their three-match series against West Indies.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is well aware of the task. He said that his team will look to put their dismal recent head-to-head record against Pakistan behind them when they take the field on Thursday.
“This series will pose a huge challenge in front of us… What makes Pakistan competitive is the sort of bowling options available to them,” Jayawardene said.
"We rested Rangana (Herath) in the T20 series because he had a knee operation. But we might play him in the one-dayers," he added.
Umar Gul, Mohammed Sami and Sohail Tanvir will lead Pakistan's pace attack, with the spin trio of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammed Hafeez also providing options.
Afridi shone with bat and ball as Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by 23 runs in Hambantota on Sunday to tie the two-match Twenty20 series.
Eight Pakistan players who took part in the T20 games will return home, with a number of familiar faces arriving for the ODIs — including captain Misbah-ul-Haq and batsman Younis Khan.
Tanvir has been retained for the ODIs after impressing in the T20s in Hambantota. He replaces Nasir Jamshed in the visitors’ squad, the opening batsman having been ruled out by a broken finger before the team departed for Sri Lanka.
Despite Pakistan’s recent one-day record — not only against Sri Lanka, but the side have won 16 of the last 22 overall ODIs — skipper Misbah is wary of the hosts and has called on his whole squad to perform.
“It’s not about one or two players,” he said. “The whole team will have to contribute, because Sri Lanka are tough opponents, especially at home.”