Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, made no secret of his intention of inflicting a clean sweep on Sri Lanka when the teams meet in the fifth and final One-Day International on Monday (October 23).
Since their Champions Trophy triumph in June, Pakistan have won eight straight games and have been unstoppable in limited-overs greens, having overcome the disappointment of losing the preceding Test series to the same opponents 2-0 to open up a 4-0 lead in this series.
Arthur believed his team had shown the hunger to keep winning. “I will be disappointed if we didn’t make it 5-0,” he said. “The guys are hungry and they definitely want to do that. The key for us is to maintain our hunger and ruthlessness, so we need to keep that momentum and put this series to bed.”
Pakistan have previously achieved five clean sweeps in the past, all in series involving five games. They blanked Zimbabwe in 2002-03, Bangladesh in 2003, New Zealand in 2003-04, and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in the 2008 season.
Pakistan will look to try out more players, with Haris Sohail the only one from the squad who has not featured in this series. But Arthur revealed that a spate of injuries was currently haunting the team.
“It’s a pity that we have picked up a couple of injuries,” he remarked. “I thought Fahim Ashraf bowled great lengths. I would have loved to see him play but he did a calf muscle, out of this match on Monday.
“Rumman Raees is out of the last match as well as the Twenty20 series,’ added Arthur of the left-arm quick, who has injured his left elbow. “Haris didn’t pass a fitness test in Abu Dhabi after he was pretty close to playing. Babar Azam has pulled a groin and we need to take all that into consideration.”
Arthur hoped Fakhar Zaman, the opening batsman, would learn from his failures. “I would be lying if I say it is not a little worrying,” conceded the coach. “Fakhar is a really good player. What we needs is to learn and we continue talking to him.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari, Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella(wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedara, Thisara Perera, Seekuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay.
“He played in England (during the Champions Trophy) on really good wickets. The other wickets have been a lot slower and haven’t allowed him to play strokes as much as he would like,” said Arthur of the left-hand batsman, who has scores of 43, 11, 29 and 17.
While Pakistan are enjoying an eight-match winning streak, Sri Lanka will look to avoid a straight 11th loss — three short of their worst-ever run of 14 defeats in 1987.
Nic Pothas, the Sri Lanka coach, urged the batsmen to start delivering. “It is pretty obvious. It is not rocket science,” he said, not for the first time during this series. “We just want the batters to be a little more positive about the way they go about things. We also understand we need to be in the right frame of mind to be there.
“So our job is to try and give the players the freedom to be able to play their way. It is going to be a very good wicket again and it is not the biggest boundary in the world. We are always looking to just improve.”
So abysmal has been their batting that Sri Lanka have not reached the 250-mark even once in their last 11 games.
Pothas believed a positive frame of mind was the need of the hour. “A batter always plays better when he is positive. His decision-making is better, his feet movement will be better and there will be an intent to score if you stay in a positive mind. It has been the same message all the way through. Execution is the toughest part, so hopefully we can go and execute that a little bit better.”
The ODIs will be followed by a three-match Twenty20 series, the last of which will be held in Lahore on October 29.