The World Cup runners-up have lost five of their last six one-dayers against Pakistan, four in the United Arab Emirates last November and one in the Asia Cup in Dhaka in March.
The key to Sri Lanka’s success will be a solid batting performance by Mahela Jayawardene’s men against a side that boasts a rich variety in both spin and pace bowling.
The spin trio of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez have proved a handful for most rivals, helping Pakistan win 16 of their last 22 one-dayers.
The pace attack will be spearheaded by Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami and Sohail Tanvir, who was drafted into the one-day squad in place of injured batsman Nasir Jamshed.
Sri Lanka will rely heavily on their trusted trio of Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan to test the resurgent tourists, led by middle-order batsman Misbah-ul-Haq.
“Pakistan will be a challenge and what makes them competitive is the sort of bowling options available, apart from the specialists,” Jayawardene said ahead of the series.
The rivals shared the preceding Twenty20 series in the southern town of Hambantota as Pakistan bounced back to draw level after Sri Lanka had won the opening match.
Afridi, who scored a brisk half-century and grabbed two wickets in Pakistan’s series-levelling win last Sunday, will once again play a pivotal role in the 50-overs-a-side games.
Misbah, who remains the Test and one-day captain despite being dropped from the Twenty20 team, called for a collective display from his side to tackle the Sri Lankans.
“It’s not about one or two players, the whole team has to contribute, because Sri Lanka are tough opponents anywhere, especially at home,” Misbah said.
Pakistan’s batting has been bolstered with the return of Misbah and veteran Younis Khan, who was also not part of the Twenty20 squad.
The second one-dayer will also be played in Pallekele on Saturday before the action shifts to Colombo for the last three games on June 13, 16 and 18.
The one-dayers will be followed by a three-Test series starting on June 22.
Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Upul Tharanga, Nuwan Pradeep, Dilhara Fernando.
Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Rahat Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Sami, Asad Shafiq, Aizaz Cheema, Azhar Ali, Imran Farhat, Sohail Tanvir.