ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Pakistan, Sri Lanka in battle for semis spot
Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan didn’t have a great start to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 as they lost their opening matches by a big margin. However, the two Asian giants get their campaign back on track as they both registered magnificent wins over India and South Africa in their next league matches.
The victory has given a new lifeline to both Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Group B, and now, they both will square off against each other in the last group match of Champions Trophy 2017 which will be played at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
In their first match, Pakistan suffered a 124-run thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals India but then notched up an upset win over world number one side South Africa to stay alive.
Whereas, the Lankan lions too suffered a heavy 96-run defeat at the hands of South Africa but came up with a stunning batting show to shock defending champions India by seven wickets to place themselves in contention for a semi-final berth.
Pakistan bowlers, except for Mohammad Amir, were hammered by the top-order Indian batsmen but they made amends against South Africa whose batting line-up has several match-winners like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim (2/20) and paceman Hasan Ali (3/24) bowled beautifully to restrict the Proteas to a meagre 219 for 8.
Babar Azam (31 not out) and Shoaib Malik (16 not out) got Pakistan ahead of their required run-rate to secure a 19-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis method when rain stopped play with their side 119 for three off 27 overs.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed had attributed the win against South Africa to good bowling against a strong side and he would look for another such display against the Lankans tomorrow.
The Pakistani side also had the luxury of playing in front of a partisan crowd in Birmingham. It is unlikely to have the same support in Cardiff tomorrow and it will have to be seen how much it impacts on the team performance.
"The crowd was supporting us and that's why the players were boosted," captain Sarfraz Khan had said after the win against the Proteas.
Sri Lanka looked pedestrian in their opening game defeat at the hands of South Africa, failing collectively in the absence of their captain Angelo Mathews.
The return of Mathews seemed to have inspired the Lankans in their match against India as they pulled off a dramatic win over the defending champions who apparently had no chinks in their armour until the loss.
Set 322 to win, Sri Lanka knocked off the runs with eight balls to spare thanks to contributions from Kusal Mendis (89), Danushka Gunathilaka (76) and Mathews (52).
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are upbeat after their upset victories and it's difficult to pick a favourite for tomorrow's match.
History, however, favours Pakistan as they have won twice as against one by Sri Lanka in Champions Trophy. Overall, in the 147 matches, the two sides have played against each other, Pakistan has won 84 as against 58 by Sri Lanka. One match was tied while four games ended as 'no result'.
Most of the matches in this event have been affected by rain and if a washed out happens tomorrow, it will be a complex calculation to decide who make it to the semifinals.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Khan (C), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (C), Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickewalla, Chamara Kapugedara, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Sekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara.
(With PTI Inputs)