Unpredictable Pakistan and ragtag Sri Lanka will lock horns in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup at County Ground, Bristol on June 7.
Pakistan won their only World Cup in 1992 under the leadership of Imran Khan. This year under the captaincy of Sarfaraz Ahmed, the team recorded their 11-match losing streak, including their white-washes series against Australia and England ahead of the World Cup.
The team faced a seven-wicket defeat at the hands of West Indies in their first World Cup match last week. However, Pakistan bounced back and beat not only the hosts England by 14 runs but also ended their 11-match losing streak.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka have lifted the trophy once -- 1996 World Cup. The team since then twice finished as runners-up in 2007 and 2011 edition. The Sri Lankan board announced a surprising 15-man squad led by Dimuth Karunaratne. The team has experienced players like Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera, but Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga and Akila Dananjaya were overlooked.
Sri Lanka had a worst possible 2019 World Cup start as New Zealand bowled out them for a mere 136 inside 30 overs and then defeated Sri Lanka by 10 wickets. The Karunaratne-led team recovered in their second match and won an almost impossible match against Afghanistan by 34 runs.
The right-handed number three Pakistan batsman has been in good form lately. He scored a century in the first warm-up match against Afghanistan and the player has been a vital cog in the team's batting scheme of things. Babar hit a well-compiled 63 off 66 balls against England in second World Cup match after failing in the first match against West Indies. He is currently the number seven ranked batsman in the ODI batsmen rankings and the player holds the key to help Pakistan post a respectable score on the board.
The big-hitting left-handed batsman provides the team with a rollicking start and he has often provided the team with the powerful boost in the initial overs. No one can ever forget his innings for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final against India in 2017. The batsman has been inconsistent throughout his career, but if the player comes good, Pakistan are guaranteed for registering a good score. Fakhar along with Imam-ul-Haq gave the side a brilliant 82-run opening start against England in the second World Cup match.
One of the best pacers in the world, the 35-year-old Malinga is the master of the slow ball, which makes him a go-to wicket-taker. During the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) final, the Sri Lankan unleashed the delivery on the last ball which helped Mumbai Indians secure a one-run victory over Chennai Super Kings.
Malinga has so far collected 11 wickets, including a three-for against New Zealand, earlier this year. After being unsuccessful against New Zealand in first World Cup match, Malinga picked three-wickets against Afghanistan in the second game. Playing in his last World Cup, Malinga will be the crucial player for Sri Lanka.
Karunaratne, who has not played a single ODI since the last World Cup, finds himself leading the team for the premier event. The Sri Lanka captain displayed a promising inning against South Africa in a World Cup warm-up fixture. He scored 87 runs which saw 12 boundaries.
Karunaratne scored an unbeaten 52 against New Zealand in the first World Cup match and contributed 30 runs in the second game against Afghanistan. Under a lot of pressure and the ragtag attached to Sri Lanka, Karunaratne has to take his team back to its winning days.