India will lock horns with Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series, starting 5th January in Guwahati. Both sides will look to kick off their campaign on a positive note in 2020, especially with the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
While India have been a dominant cricketing force in 2019, their form in the shortest format of the game has been a pressing concern. The point becomes evident considering their T20I ranking (fifth) and their recent run in the build-up to 2020.
Their home series against South Africa ended at 1-1 with the visitors pulling off a series-levelling win. While the Men in Blue eventually won their next two series against Bangladesh and West Indies (2-1), both of them came down to a series-decider, something that wouldn’t go down well with skipper Virat Kohli.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, had their last T20I encounter against Australia at the start of last November and haven’t had as much limited-overs match practice as their hosts.
After going down 1-2 against the Kiwis in September, they bounced back to register a 3-0 win against Pakistan. It seemed as though the Asian side were on the right track but that was before they suffered a 3-0 series sweep at the hands of the Aussies on their home turf.
The visitors will look to bring their A game, knowing there can be no better match practice than taking on a mighty Indian side in their own backyard ahead of the upcoming World Cup.
Here, we take a look at five Sri Lankan players who could make an impact during the upcoming T20I series.
The Sri Lankan side will be led by none other than Lasith Malinga — the man who’s been a stalwart in T20I cricket.
Malinga displayed good form in the T20I series against New Zealand, picking up seven wickets from three matches. However, the 36-year-old looked at his vintage best in the third T20I as he finished with a five-wicket haul and conceded only six runs.
After missing out against Pakistan, the speedster failed to make an impact in the series against Australia and could only manage two wickets in three matches.
An experienced campaigner, he has scalped 106 wickets from 79 T20 internationals throughout his career. Come the T20Is against India, the skipper will look to bring his toe-crushing yorkers and deceptive slower ones and prove that he still has enough gas left in the tank.
Having emerged as an exciting prospect in the shortest format of the game, Udana was recently bought by IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore at his base price of Rs 50 lakhs.
The all-rounder made the most of his two outings in the T20I series against Pakistan, wherein he scalped five wickets at an economy rate of 7.35. He shone in the first T20I at Lahore, registering his career-best figures of 3/11.
While his bowling looks promising, Udana is also capable of striking some meaty blows down the order. In March last year, he had hammered 84 off 48 balls in the second T20I against South Africa.
Thus, he will be one of the key Sri Lankan all-rounders to watch out for.
The wicketkeeper-batsman smashed 105 in two T20I encounters against New Zealand in September. His best showing came in the 1st T20I against the Kiwis (in a losing cause), when he top-scored with a quick-fire knock of 79 off 53 deliveries.
While the left-hander has looked promising on certain occasions, so far in his T20 career, he has scored 473 runs from 24 matches at an average of 19.70.
These figures don’t do justice to the talent and striking ability that he possesses and therefore, the visitors will need him to step up his game against the hosts and consistently provide them with solid starts at the top of the order.
Sri Lanka’s success in the series will heavily depend on former skipper Angelo Mathews, who has been recalled after a 16-month absence from the shortest form of the game.
The all-rounder played his last T20 international against South Africa in August 2018, when he led Sri Lanka to a three-wicket win.
Having accumulated 1055 runs and picked up 37 wickets from 72 T20Is, Mathews is an experienced campaigner and someone Malinga can go to before taking crucial decisions.
By bringing him into the side, the visitors have opted for experience and it will be interesting to see if this gamble pays off. Keeping that aside, the 32-year-old will be hungry to make his comeback count and be a strong presence.
The cricketing world hasn’t seen much of Wanindu Hasaranga and thus, he might prove to be a challenge for India. A promising leg-spinner and lower-middle order batsmen, he claimed a hat-trick on his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in 2017.
So far, in his short T20I career, Hasaranga has picked up 12 wickets from eight matches at a decent economy rate of 7.94.
The 22-year-old recently picked up eight wickets in three T20 internationals against Pakistan, including back-to-back three-fors.
If given an opportunity, the youngster would love to prove his mettle against an all-conquering Indian unit and become a permanent feature in the Sri Lankan squad.
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