Pakistan take on Sri Lanka tomorrow in their first real competitive match of the World Cup at Colombo. This will provide a stern test for Afridi's side and really give us an indication of where they stand and how far they could potentially go in the grand scheme of things during this World Cup. Continuing and consolidating on the winning and positive momentum will be crucial in order to help the green tigers peak at the right time and deliver when it matters during the knock out stages. Pakistan should be looking to win as many fixtures as possible in the group stages in order to aid achieving this and will want victories against Test Playing Nations: Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia as opposed to just turning over the minnows as expected. What's more is that if Pakistan are able to finish higher up in their group (preferably 1st or 2nd) they will gain an easier quarter final fixture against a lesser in form and prepared outfit and the likelihood is that they will not have to face firm tournament favourites, India on their home soil which looks an uphill task for any side at present. By finishing high up in the group, this should also help the cause in delivering in the knock out days in between the 23rd and 26th March by gaining that psychological edge which could be assistive in reaching the latter stages of the 10th ICC Cricket World Cup. This undoubtedly is a big game where the actual significance of a victory will show down the line as the tournament progresses and one looks back on at where things went well or went wrong for the goodness of the overall team campaign. The adrenaline must be pumping and the players must be raring to go like energetic school kids at the start of the holiday season.
He will be a key name I am putting in the hat for this fascinating encounter at Colombo. He has a great deal of freshness, youthful exuberance, positivity and fearlessness about him. He has done exceptionally well in his comeback and made some eye catching and match winning contributions with his adorable stroke play and excellent intent. He looked off colour against Kenya, but I am expecting the selectors to persevere with him and for him to come out with a buzzing game plan to show what he is made of and announce himself to the world as a teenage batting superstar. The stage could be his. He has the talent. He generally has the form. This could be his day to shine and that too against a proper bowling attack?
Needs no introduction. The sky is the limit. A legendary world class bowler who holds records and has reached many illustrious milestones throughout his career. He is the second leading World Cup wicket taker of all time. This will be his 5th and final World Cup so he will want to start off well and what better place to do it than against Pakistan in their first real competitive match of the 49 match tournament. Could be a key factor. Pakistan will be need to be weary of him and do their homework.
I am anticipating a high scoring match here. If Pakistan bowl first and are able to restrict the Lankans to under 260, they will fancy their chances. However, they will definitely need a better opening start than what they got against Kenya in order to post a competitive and challenging total against the Lankans batting first. Either way, they will have to be at the top of their game to stand a chance. Given the strength and depth of Sri Lanka's batting and the nature of the pitches, an extra front line seamer will be a wise choice and open up the options for the skipper as well as prevent relying on liabilities which could be fatal. This will help in keeping control of proceedings out there in the field.
Sri Lanka have beaten Pakistan 7 out of the last 10 times the team have met and on paper they are the stronger unit. Pakistan have beaten Sri Lanka all 6 times the teams have met in a World Cup Fixture. At this particular venue where the match will be contested, Pakistan have won 5 out of 12 matches. Umar Akmal also made his maiden ODI century at this venue.
Sri Lanka have the edge, but as always you never quite known with Pakistan and there should never be any shortage of excitement and mysteriousness in their approach. The game is a big opportunity for them to stamp their authorities which could be crucial in the chain of events which follow as outlined above. Here's hoping from a Pakistani perspective they have realised its significance and take it with a sense of purpose. In closing, all eyes are firmly focussed on Colombo for this good old Asian Rivalry between two teams who have a decent shout of doing the distance right through to the Mumbai Final on the 2nd of April, but who is the better one at this stage?