Colombo: Sri Lanka and Pakistan both had fitness worries over key batsmen as they made their final preparations before Thursday’s opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy.
Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya has yet to fully recover after dislocating his right shoulder in the final of the Morocco triangular series three weeks ago, while Pakistan’s vice captain Inzamam-ul Haq is nursing a heel injury.
But lefthander Jayasuriya is optimistic of leading his team in the match as the 1996 world champions look for a boost ahead of next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
A team official said the 33-year-old’s availability for the pool IV game would become clear only after a final session with the physiotherapist late on Wednesday evening.
Inzamam, who hit 329 against New Zealand in May to register the 10th highest score in Test history, is more doubtful as Pakistan coach Mudassar Nazar admitted.
“He is struggling, but he has not been ruled out,” he said.
Although the format of the tournament has been changed from simple knockout to that of a group stage followed by semi-finals, a single defeat for each team could still mean their departure.
That is because of the weakness of the ‘third’ team in each group, which in pool IV’s case is the Netherlands.
Sri Lanka hold a slender edge in form as they have notched up a few good wins in the last few months, while Pakistan’s batsmen have struggled in their last two one-day tournaments.
Pakistan failed to reach the final of the tri-nation series in Morocco and were fortunate to finish joint winners in the tournament in Nairobi, Kenya last week after rain forced the final to be abandoned with Australia calling the shots.
Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis has said his side will have to raise their overall performance at this 12-nation event, which ranks only behind the World Cup in prestige.
“We have had our bad patch and hopefully we will get out of it here,” he said on his team’s arrival.
Pakistan’s batting order will be strengthened by the return of Yousuf Youhana, who was sent home from Nairobi on disciplinary grounds.
Sri Lanka’s return to form has coincided with the return to the side of off spinner Muttiah Muralidharan after a shoulder injury.
Without him they made a premature exit from a one-day tri-nation series in England.
But after he was restored to the team, Jayasuriya led his side to victory in the Morocco tournament with a win in the final over South Africa.
The pitch at the Premadasa Stadium, venue for the day-night game, often slows in the later stages of matches which could cause problems for Sri Lanka’s strokeplayers if they were forced to chase a total.
Pakistan (from): Waqar Younis (captain), Saeed Anwar, Imran Nazir, Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Abdul Razzaq, Misbah-ul Haq, Rashid Latif, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Sami.
Sri Lanka (from):Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Maravan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda De Silva, Russel Arnold, Kumar Sangakkara, Upul Chandana, Kumara Dharmasena, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Hasantha Fernando, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Muttiah Muralidharan, Chaminda Vaas.
Umpires: Daryl Harper, Steve Bucknor.
Match Referee: Mike Proctor.
n Sri Lanka, Pakistan one-day career statistics: Page 24