|Player:||DPMD Jayawardene, M Muralitharan, Shoaib Malik, Shoaib Akhtar|
|Event:||Sri Lanka in Pakistan 2008/09|
DateLine: 24th January 2009
Sri Lanka's resounding victory in the second ODI in Karachi showed all the indications of their commitment to improve on the areas in which they faltered. Their middle order built on a good start provided by the openers and their spinners ensured a comprehensive win after the Pakistan batsmen had negotiated them well in the series opener. Thilina Kandamby's inclusion in place of Jehan Mubarak worked wonders - and restoration of their spinners' dominance amid a sorry capitulation by the Pakistan batsmen gives Sri Lanka the edge going into the series decider. Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene is confident his team can win a second successive match and wrap up the series against Pakistan in Lahore on Saturday. They lost the first match by eight wickets but won by 129 runs in Karachi.
"For us winning a trophy is enough motivation," Jayawardene said. "We got two trophies in Bangladesh and created opportunities to win another one here."
Muttiah Muralitharan needs five wickets to break Wasim Akram's world record of 502 wickets in one-day internationals. "Definitely it would be great to see Murali achieve that record," Jayawardene said. "Winning the match and the series would be the top priority, and on the way if Murali achieves that record we would definitely celebrate. Jayawardene revealed that Murali, who holds the Test wicket-taking record with 769 victims from 125 matches, had not spoken of the one-day milestone. "He knows his role and he knows what he needs to do," his captain said. "We are going as a team to beat Pakistan."
Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik surprisingly dismissed Murali and fellow star spinner Ajantha Mendis as major factors ahead of the deciding match, despite both taking three wickets in Karachi. "I don't think their spin attack is a threat to us," he insisted. "We have made so many plans against them and hopefully we will try against them on Saturday. "We let the lead slip in the second match, so it's now a must-win situation in the final game. I hope the players realise that and do not repeat the mistakes." The hosts have more to gain from a series win: it will represent a welcome conclusion to the first international series in Pakistan during what has been a tumultuous few months, help generate revenue for a cash-strapped board and bring back more fans to the grounds after lower-than-expected turnouts for the first two games.
However, they have reasons to worry. Only three Pakistan batsmen reached double figures in their 129-run defeat, and while Salman Butt was fluent with Shoaib Malik scoring freely at the other end, the way the rest surrendered augurs badly for the decider. Moreover, the form of their new-ball pair is a major worry.
Sri Lanka are expected to retain their winning team, but Pakistan are likely to drop experienced fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar following his disappointing return in the first two matches, when he took just one wicket for 88 runs in 13 overs. Shoaib Akhtar bowled just six overs for 45 at below-par speeds in the previous match and has drawn criticism from his own captain, while Sohail Tanvir has gone for around seven runs per over in both ODIs.
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