Sri Lanka seem stronger but Pakistan have the x-factor

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 04, 2012 04:23 hrs

The two best bowling sides in the tournament, certainly in the conditions on offer here, will face off aware that it may not be how they bowl as much as how they combat it that will determine who plays the final.

Pakistan have been the best bowling side, powered not just by the best spinner in world cricket at the moment in Saeed Ajmal, but by Umar Gul and a very mature young man in Raza Hasan. With Mitchell Starc he has been the bowler to take the largest strides in this tournament and it shows once again that a land that champions bowlers tends to produce them.

Sri Lanka haven't been too far behind and Lasith Malinga's fine form against England must give them a boost for he had just started to suggest that, excellent as he is, his best bowling days were probably behind him. But in these conditions they also have four bowlers capable of bowling slow (the two Mendis', Dananjaya or Herath and Dilshan) and four others who can bowl seam up (Malinga, Kulasekara, Mathews and Perera). It is an extraordinary balance.

It could well come down to class at the top of the order and Sri Lanka are better served with Jayawardene, Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mathews compared to Hafeez, Nazir, Jamshed and Kamran Akmal. That is why it is essential Pakistan have a decent start, not necessarily one in which the batsmen go berserk, but one where they do not lose too many wickets. They got it absolutely right against Australia and they will need to against Sri Lanka. They cannot afford to be as lackadaisical as they were against South Africa or India.

But we are now in the knockout stage and the fact that there are no comebacks, puts added pressure. Sri Lanka's batsmen will handle that better and that is why they might well want to bat first and test Pakistan's rather more fragile line-up. Bowling second, Pakistan get to use their stronger suit later and as Australia's discovered, they can be very difficult to get away.

Pakistan are more mercurial and more difficult to predict, but they also have the x-factor. Logically viewed, Sri Lanka seem stronger with their batting, but in a one-off it could just be Pakistan's day.

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