x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Delight over Shahid Afridi return

Fellow Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq is also back, and with Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga selected to reinforce tourists' bowling, the next challenge is set for the first one-day international.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, is delighted by the return of paceman Lasith Malinga to the one-day side.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, is delighted by the return of paceman Lasith Malinga to the one-day side.

DUBAI // Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, says his team will benefit from the return to the fold of some of the feistiest characters in cricket ahead of Friday's series opener against Sri Lanka.

Under their undemonstrative captain, and with a largely inexperienced side, Pakistan won the Test series against Sri Lanka, which concluded in Sharjah on Monday.

The fact that much of the attention of Pakistan cricket was centred on issues unfolding in a court thousands of miles away meant their victory mostly passed under the radar.

The return of the likes of Shahid Afridi, the pyrotechnic Pathan all-rounder, and Abdul Razzaq could threaten the spirit of calm, but that might be no bad thing, according to Misbah.

"For a long period they have been playing only T20 and one-day cricket," Misbah said. "They know they have not been playing Test cricket recently for Pakistan, so they are ready. They are specialists in these formats.

"Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq have done a wonderful job in these two formats for Pakistan, so it is good to have them in the team."

Accepted wisdom has it that the shorter the format, the better for Pakistan. While the national team were winning their Test series over Sri Lanka, three players who had been overlooked for the side were prospering in the shortest format.

Razzaq, Sohail Tanvir and Umar Akmal have rejoined the senior ranks in the UAE after firing their side to the Hong Kong Sixes title two weeks ago. Pakistan, though, are not the only ones who have upped the star quotient since swapping the whites for pyjamas.

Lasith Malinga, the fast bowler who has retired from Tests, is back to spearhead their attack in Dubai. His return will provide much needed potency for a Sri Lankan attack which looked limp in the Tests.

"Lasith Malinga is a great asset for Sri Lanka," Tillakaratne Dilshan, their captain, said. "He is one of the leading bowlers in the world, and he can guide the other bowlers during the match. After [Muttiah Muralitharan] retired, we have moved on to young bowlers, which is why we haven't won many Test matches since.

"One-day cricket is a different format, though, and we have played good limited-overs cricket in the last few years."

Malinga's return may provide a boost for a Sri Lanka side who have still to win a one-day international or Test series since reaching the World Cup final in Mumbai at the start of April.

However, Pakistan beat the Sri Lankans, on home soil in Colombo during the World Cup, the last time the sides met in this format.

"It creates a difference when Lasith Malinga plays, because everyone knows he is a very good bowler," Misbah said.

"We have played a lot of games against them and our guys have done well against him. It is a professional game and you just have to go there and face everything."


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