Pakistan v Sri Lanka
Friday, 10:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event
Pakistan have found their bowling edge
That most inconsistent of cricketing nations is at it again. Woeful when thrashed by Windies in their opener, Pakistan suddenly look like title contenders after succeeding where so many failed of late, by beating England.
The most striking difference with the side that previously lost 4-0 to England was the return of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz. Both were outstanding at the death and provide the wicket-taking threat so badly missed earlier this summer.
Besides the Windies debacle, there is nothing wrong with their batting either. Five innings against England have yielded nothing less than 297. Don't forget that, only two years ago, they won the ICC Champions Trophy on English soil.
Relief for Sri Lanka after fightback
Sri Lanka are off the mark, and likely to avoid finishing bottom, after winning a thoroughly entertaining match against Afghanistan. A collapse from a 300-plus total to 201 all out reaffirmed their profound batting worries but the bowlers came good.
Ultimately the debutants bottled it, collapsing to 152 with plenty of overs to spare. Yes, Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Pradeep produced brilliant spells but this attack is unlikely to enjoy anything like that success against the better sides.
Back Pakistan to score 300 plus again
There could potentially be very big totals on offer at Bristol but any runs prediction really depends who bats first. The par First Innings Runs lines will likely differ by 50 plus.
Sri Lanka are extremely brittle. Pakistan have probably never had a stronger batting line up, as the scores against England demonstrate.
In the previous Bristol match, Afghanistan were all out for 207 at a good run-rate, against a potent Aussie attack, which was chased down with ease. In the final warm-up here, Windies and New Zealand put on 421 and 330.
Pakistan look banker material
As implied above, I think these two sides are a class apart. Pakistan won their last six encounters dating back to 2015, all with plenty to spare. The odds are very short but justifiably so.
Granted, they are inconsistent as the opening match demonstrated, but Sri Lanka's attack doesn't possess anything like the pace and bounce that derailed them. I expect Pakistan to win this by at least 40 runs or, if chasing, with at least a few overs to spare. I'll be backing them in-running as soon as they hit 1.664/6.
Three picks for man of the match
It is extremely likely that one of their number ends up Man of the Match, so let's try a few. Wahab Riaz was superb against England and, at his best, one of the finest death overs exponents around. He could run through this brittle Sri Lankan middle-order.
Equally though, I want to get a couple of batsmen onside because a ton is very realistic at Bristol and that would probably be enough to land the spoils.
Babar Azam is a decent value favourite at 9/1 and 14/1 about opener Imam Ul- Haq is a standout price about an explosive player with a superb 57 average in ODIs.
That market seems a better way to get onside the Pakistan batsmen, as their top runscorer market will likely be one by somebody from the top order at short odds.
Very few Sri Lankan batsmen are firing
I wrote before the last match that backing Angelo Mathews at 5/1 for every Sri Lanka match would probably pay off, and he duly gets out for a second straight duck! The theory still stands but he is opposed at today's shorter 9/2 odds.
Most of Sri Lanka's runs to date have been scored by either Kusal Perera and Dimuth Kurunaratne and they rightly head their runscorer market at 16/5 and 7/2 respectively. At bigger odds, Dhananjaya de Silva is fair value at 9/1.
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