Injury concerns for Pakistan

Defending champions face tough test against Sri Lanka in summit clash today

Injury concerns for Pakistan

Defending champions Pakistan will have to contend with minor injury issues to key players Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul as they take on a consistent Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup cricket tournament here on Saturday.

Afridi, who has played a pivotal role in turning around the fortunes of Pakistan in this tournament, has suffered a grade one hip flexor strain and his availability will be known only on the match day.

Paceman Gul is little bit “stiff” and Sharjeel Khan along with opener Ahmed Shehzad also have some niggles, going into the title clash. The Sri Lankans, who had defeated the defending champions in the tournament opener, are yet to lose a match in the event and they would hope that their campaign culminates with the title.

Pakistan’s chances would depend on how they tame seasoned Kumar Sangakkara and handle the bowling of paceman Lasith Malinga and spinner Ajantha Mendis. It was Malinga, who had taken key wickets of Misbah-Ul Haq and Afridi in their previous clash and Sangakkara is in prime form in this tournament. He has hit one century and two fifties and his rare failure was against Bangladesh on Thursday.

Pakistan, on the other hand have wriggled out of difficult situations to reach their second successive Asia Cup final and a lot of credit goes to Afridi for his fiery knocks of 34 and 59 against India and Bangladesh respectively.

Those two knocks not only revived the team’s hopes of title defence but also injected the much-needed spark and life to what had been a low key Asia Cup affair. After shattering India’s hopes, the ‘boom-boom’ Afridi returned to devastate the host country as he led Pakistan to a great win, chasing Bangladesh’s highest ever 326, with his 18-ball half-century.

Sri Lanka would look to do the things quietly with all the buzz surrounding Afridi. Lankans would hope that the duo of Malinga and Mendis manage to rein in Afridi. It would be an interesting battle between Afridi against Malinga’s toe-crushing yorkers and Mendis’ guile.

For Sri Lanka, the form of Mahela Jayawardene would be a worry. He has managed just 36 runs from four innings. Pakistan would want their skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (78 runs) too get back among runs.

The Lankans may not be a team that shows emotions or throws temperament like that of Pakistanis but they love to go about their things quietly and in a professional manner. The best thing for the Lankas is that Sangakkara is in the middle of a dream run in Bangladesh as the senior pro is leading the Asia Cup run chart with 248 runs.

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