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Familiar foes renew continental rivalry

- SL bank on Sangakkara form, Pak on bowling
Pakistan coach Moin Khan and captain Misbah-ul Haq during a practice session, on Monday

Calcutta/Fatullah: Other than being a battle for continental supremacy, the Asia Cup could also be referred to as a dress rehearsal for the upcoming World T20, which will also be staged in Bangladesh.

The subcontinent teams know it well that a sound performance in this 11-day competition would certainly help them begin the mega event with extra confidence.

Given the present scenario, no team looks to be outright favourites. But the fact that Sri Lanka fared extremely well in the series against Bangladesh might give them an edge over other opponents, the first of them being Pakistan, whom they play at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, in Fatullah, on Tuesday.

Senior pro Kumar Sangakkara would be the one to watch out for given the fine form he has displayed over the last one month or so. He hit a triple-century, his first, followed by a hundred in the second Test against Bangladesh.

In the ODIs, too, the 36-year-old has been in blistering form as his century had helped Sri Lanka clinch the series. He would certainly look to ensure that Sri Lanka make amends for failing to win a single match in the previous edition of the tournament, which was also held in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka will not be short on experience in batting as apart from Sangakkara, the line-up also features Mahela Jayawardene, who has recovered from a finger injury, and captain Angelo Mathews, whose all-round abilities will be crucial for the team’s success.

One thing that the Sri Lankans would rue is the absence of Tillekaratne Dilshan, ruled out after sustaining a hand injury. Lahiru Thirimanne has come in as his replacement. It remains to be seen whether Jayawardene opens because whenever he has been promoted up the order, Sri Lanka have benefited on most occasions.

Besides, Jayawardene’s presence at the top could help in bringing the best out of opener Kusal Perera, whose performance curve seems to be on its way upwards.

As for Pakistan, the defending champions, series victories over Sri Lanka and South Africa will help them step on to the ground with confidence. Their strength lies in their bowling and it’s no denying that they have an attack, which is superior to their rivals. Left-arm pacer Junaid Khan has had a fair amount of success against Sri Lanka, while the likes of Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul have also been amongst wickets in ODIs lately.

Uncapped Mohammed Talha, included in the squad after his six wickets against Sri Lanka in the Sharjah Test, also has potential.

So it all boils down to how Sangakkara and Jayawardene fare against this strong Pakistan bowling attack.

However, the Pakistan top-order, comprising the likes of Ahmed Shehzad and Sohaib Maqsood, cannot be taken lightly as they had shown what they are capable of during recent matches.

Match starts: 1.30pm (IST)