AFP & Cricket Network
AFP & Cricket Network
Sri Lanka batsman Dhananjaya de Silva has found himself thrown straight into the cauldron of the Champions Trophy after being named in their XI to face Pakistan in Cardiff.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and elected to bowl first in the must-win match, citing some extra moisture in the Sophia Gardens pitch as justification for his decision.
Teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan has been left out of the Pakistan XI, with debutant quick Fahim Ashraf included in his place to give Sarfraz's side some extra firepower.
De Silva was only called in to the Sri Lanka squad late last week after batsmen Chamara Kapugedera and Kusal Perera were both ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.
Stand-in captain for their tournament-opener against South Africa Upul Tharanga is also serving a two-match ban for a slow over-rate against the Proteas.
After both sides recorded upsets in their most recent group games, this match is a virtual quarter-final with the loser to be eliminated and the winner to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Whichever team triumphs in the Welsh capital will join title-holders India as one of the two Group B qualifiers for the semi-finals of a tournament featuring the world's top eight one-day international teams.
Tharanga was suspended for the over-rate infringement against South Africa, a match regular captain Angelo Mathews missed due to a calf problem.
Kapugedera then suffered a knee injury and was replaced by Danushka Gunathilaka for Sri Lanka's surprise win over India at the Oval, only for Perera to have to go off mid-innings with a hamstring injury having batted well for his 47.
Now Sri Lanka will hope De Silva, who struck a series-sealing Test century against Australia last year, can follow the lead of opening batsman Gunathilaka, who made an impressive 76 in Sri Lanka's surprisingly comfortable seven-wicket win on Thursday.
"It's a shame to lose Kusal, he batted extremely well - but Dhananjaya de Silva is also a very good player," Mathews, who struck a crucial 52 not out against India, told reporters in Cardiff on Sunday.
"We had to bring him into the squad because we are left with only seven batters at the moment.
"He has a good chance of playing, but we still haven't decided."
Mohammad Hafeez meanwhile has no problems with Pakistan being known as "unpredictable", saying he "loves" the tag that is so often applied to the team.
The cliché that you can never be sure which Pakistan team will turn up is one the current side have seemingly embraced at this tournament.
Their campaign started with a miserable 124-run thrashing by arch-rivals and defending champions India, which saw Pakistan utterly outplayed in all aspects of the game to the dismay of their fans at a packed Edgbaston.
But just three days later they went from zeroes to heroes when they returned to the Birmingham ground to beat South Africa, the world's top-ranked ODI side by 19 runs on Duckworth/Lewis.
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Once again there was much talk of the "unpredictable Pakistan".
But Hafeez, a veteran of 187 ODIs, told reporters on Sunday: "To be honest, I'm always a fan of that tag, that we're an unpredictable team.
"As a team, we're always very aggressive.
"Yes, we had some of the days which were not nice, and I think the first game was one of those where we all tried our level-best but things didn't work for us.
"And the next game, like it was a totally different team effort.
"As a team, we are always like that, and I love that tag always."
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
4 June – India beat Pakistan by 124 runs
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, No Result
6 June – England beat New Zealand by 87 runs
11 June – India beat South Africa by eight wickets
12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)
14 June – First semi-final (England v B2), Cardiff (D)
15 June – Second semi-final (Bangladesh v B1), Edgbaston (D)
18 June – Final, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)