Having failed to qualify automatically for the World Cup later this year, Sri Lanka will be flying shortly to Zimbabwe to secure one of the two remaining slots for the sport’s showpiece event. But before that they have got to finish off the ODI series against Afghanistan and the former champions will be hoping that they will be able to clinch the series prior to flying off to Harare.
After losing the first ODI by six wickets, Sri Lanka bounced back to square the series with a 132-run win on Sunday. That was a match where they basically produced the perfect game and ticked all the boxes.
The top order gave a solid start before the middle order capitalized on it and the lower middle order finished things off in style scoring 109 runs from the last ten overs. Sri Lanka piled up 323 for six and Afghanistan were never in the hunt as they were shot out for 191.
“The last game was a perfect exhibition of our plans. Everything was executed well. Since we had wickets in hand we could take risks. We could double the score and that was the plan. That’s what we want to do,” Sri Lanka’s Batting Coach Naveed Nawaz told journalists.
Prior to this series, we had a free period and we worked a lot on players’ fitness at the High-Performance Center. During this series we brought in a dietician and planned our food patterns. There is also a psychologist around. This is all done in a bid to establish whatever we have lost in the last few years,” Nawaz added.
While Sri Lanka are fretting over World Cup qualifications, there’s no such trouble for Afghanistan. Their captain Hashmatullah Shahidi told journalists that they will be one of the dark horses during the World Cup.
“Our ratings are improving day by day and match by match. We believe that we can do something special in this World Cup. We will be one of the best teams in the World Cup. We are the dark horses. The Asian conditions will suit our spin bowlers and we are excited,” Hashmatullah Shahidi said.
For today’s series decider leg-spinner Rashid Khan is expected to make a comeback having missed the first two ODIs due to a back injury.
“He is obviously our star performer. We didn’t want to take any risks with him as we have the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We will assess his situation during training and make a call whether he is ready to feature in the final game. It will mean a lot to us to come here to Sri Lanka and beat them in their own backyard,” the Afghan captain said.
Decision on sexual assault case against Danushka Gunathilaka next Thursday (28)
The hearing of the sexual assault case against Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilake before the New South Wales District Court concluded today (21) and Judge Sarah Huggett will hand down her decision next Thursday (28).
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Selectors make ‘U’ turn after requesting Shanaka to step down
by Rex Clementine
The national selection panel that met yesterday made a complete ‘U’ turn having earlier requested captain Dasun Shanaka to step down in the lead up to next month’s ICC Cricket World Cup to be played in India. After Sri Lanka’s horrendous show in the Asia Cup final, where the team was bowled out for 50 runs, their lowest total at home, someone had to be scapegoated and Dasun Shanaka fitted the selectors’ bill.
The captain had been informed to step down so that a new captain could be appointed and accordingly Kusal Mendis was tipped to take over. Team management had endorsed Mendis highlighting him as the player who contributed most during team meetings. He was anyway deputy to Dasun in ODIs.
Although Dasun had expressed his willingness to step aside so that the selectors could make the change, the national selection panel decided to retain Dasun following a meeting yesterday.
While a section of the public had wanted the captain gone due to an extended run of poor form with the bat, some others had argued that axing the captain on the verge of an event like the World Cup wasn’t the most sensible move.
Had Dasun stepped down, he was in fear of not finding a place in the team as well as the selectors had wanted the new captain to make the call of having or not having the misfiring ex-captain in the team.
Despite the debacle in the final, Sri Lanka had done well to progress to the finals of the Asia Cup having beaten Afghanistan and Pakistan and Bangladesh twice. There were fears of the team not progressing beyond the first round after the bowling attack was completely depleted with injuries.
Although Dasun has been now retained as the captain, he will be under tremendous pressure to deliver following a string of low scores. Having said that, he was Sri Lanka’s best batter when the national cricket team toured India earlier this month.
Sri Lanka will leave for India next week and will be based in Guwahati where they will play two warm-up games against Asian rivals Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Sri Lanka’s first game of the World Cup is against South Africa on the 7th of October in Delhi.
Arachchige to lead second-string Sri Lanka side at the Asian games
Sri Lanka have announced a young squad for the 2023 Asian Games – essentially a Sri Lanka A side – with Sahan Arachchige set to lead the 15-member squad.
Among those with international caps, Ashen Bandara tops the list with 11 white-ball games under his belt. Nuwanidu Fernando and Nuwan Thushara have played four games each, while Arachchige has played two ODIs.
A majority of the team have however appeared in the Lanka Premier League (LPL), so fans may not be completely unfamiliar with some of these names, but this will be a good opportunity to observe them over a more consistent period.
Most of the excitement will arguably surround the batters, with the likes of Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Fernando and Arachchige having popped up on the radar during the most recent LPL season.
Croospulle was part of ESPNcricinfo’s LPL 2023 team of the tournament for his 232 runs at an average 33.14, while Daniel too had some exciting cameos opening the innings. At just 19, he also has a first-class double ton to his name.
Fernando meanwhile has the distinction of having played one of the most impactful innings in last year’s LPL, when he scored a 42-ball 63 on a surface all other batters had struggled on. This year as well he compiled an unbeaten 39-ball 56 against Dambulla Aura but wasn’t able to take his side over teh line. As for Arachchige, despite having a subdued LPL, he has impressed in recent games for the Sri Lanka A side, notably notching a pair of centuries against England Lions earlier this year.
In Bandara, Sri Lanka have one of the best fielders in the tournament, while his six ODIs for the national side have already brought about two fifties – his relative experience will hold them in good stead. Rounding out the batting will be wicketkeeper Lahiru Udara, lower-middle order batter Ahan Wickramasinghe and allrounders Lahiru Samarakoon, Nimesh Vimukthi, Ranitha Liyanarachchi, Sachitha Jayathilaka and Ravindu Fernando.
On the fast bowling front, a lot will depend on Thushara. Dubbed podi (little) Malinga due to his slingy action, Thushara has been consistently among the better performers in recent LPL seasons. He makes up for his lack of searing pace with good control and variety. Thushara will be supported by 26-year-old quick Isitha Wijesundara, and allrounders Samarakoon and Liyanarachchi.
In the spin department, Sri Lanka boasts a fair degree of variety. Legspinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth will the lead the way, having broken into the starting XI of Jaffna Kings – and played a key role in their 2022 championship. Nimesh Vimukthi will share the burden with his slow left-arm orthodox, while Ravindu and Arachchige provide offbreak options. Jayathilaka meanwhile is capable of zippy leg breaks pushed quickly through the air.
Sri Lanka have a direct entry into the Asian Games quarter-finals and play their first game on October 4. All matches will be in the T20 format.
Lasith Croospulle, Shevon Daniel, Ashen Bandara, Sahan Arachchige (capt), Ahan Wickramasinghe, Lahiru Udara (wk), Ravindu Fernando, Ranitha Liyanarachchi, Nuwanidu Fernando, Sachitha Jayatilaka, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Nimesh Vimukthi, Lahiru Samarakoon, Nuwan Thushara, Isitha Wijesundera
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