SHARJAH - Misbah-ul-Haq has called on his top order to consolidate starts, in the approach to Pakistan's five-ODI series against Sri Lanka, suggesting big scores at the top of the innings had been key to his team's recent success in South Africa.
Pakistan's batting has been fragile at the top for much of the year. They were clobbered 1-4 by South Africa in the ODI series in the UAE, but found redemption in the away matches, partly because of opener Ahmed Shehzad's 102 in the second game of that series.
"Especially in batting we need to build very good partnerships," Misbah said. "Top order batsmen need to carry on once they get starts. That's what we proved in South Africa. Shehzad was getting runs here and he got a hundred in South Africa that really helped Pakistan. That's what we were missing in the UAE [against South Africa]."
Misbah said the victory in South Africa continued to be a source of confidence for his players, but also warned of Sri Lanka's knack to rally from poor situations, in a match and in a series. His team had most recently been victims of that trait in an ODI in Colombo last year, when Angelo Mathews resurrected a chase with an unbeaten 80 from 76, which helped Sri Lanka eclipse Pakistan's 247, despite being 138 for 6 in the 35th over.
"It matters how you perform on the day. I think Sri Lanka really came back in the second Twenty20 after losing the first game. They looked an improved side," Misbah said. "This is what you are going to associate with the Sri Lanka team, that they really are fighters and can come back strongly. We need to repeat the good performances. We need to really show some good skills to beat them." Misbah also expressed a commitment to blooding young players, which had been a focus for the side in the Twenty20 series. The experiment earned mixed results, but Misbah outlined the importance of building depth in the team, ahead of major international tournaments in the next 18 months.
"Giving players chances is how we got Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali, who performed really well in South Africa. I think Sharjeel Khan is another example. This is the way to get good players in the line-up. You can really enhance your pool of players and we should continue wherever you need someone, to replace from the domestic circuit. Give him exposure and check him at this level." Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, hoped his batsmen would continue to be proactive against Pakistan's attack, after a belligerent attitude had brought them success in the second Twenty20.
"We know Pakistan are a very dangerous team when it comes to the shorter formats. They have one of the best bowling line-ups in the world, a good mix of spin and fast bowlers. Our batters need to be on guard to try and counterattack and be positive. We had an exciting Twenty20 series and we look forward to the one-day series as well." Mathews also praised legspinning allrounder Seekkuge Prasanna, who walloped 21 from 11 balls in his debut international innings, after being promoted to no. 3 to pinch-hit. "Prasanna is a guy who can hit the ball out of the park any time. And he is a very gutsy player. He is a very good allrounder for us and we hope to see him doing well."