After presenting a nail-biting contest in the Test series, the island nation is ready to host another white-ball party. Sri Lanka and New Zealand will change their whites to battle it out in a 3-match T20I series. It will be a perfect platform for both the teams to test out their combinations for the next year’s World Cup. Pallekele is the destination where the trumpets will blow in full flow when the home team takes on Black Caps in the inaugural tie.
Till now the Lankan Lions have relished their home season. They thrashed the Bangla Tigers in their limited-overs sojourn and then played out a hard-fought red-ball series against the Kiwis. Now a new set of players will be joining the side for the slam-bang version of the game. Though they are the former champions in this format they have lost their last 3 T20 series. Under Lasith Malinga, it will be a good opportunity for them to reverse their fortunes.
The Black Caps will be playing their first white-ball game after their heartbreaking loss in the 2019 World Cup final. The team is on the right track as they are fresh from their Test win against the island team. Even in the T20s, they are in good form as they beat India earlier in the year. Still, they will be wary of their opponents as they will be playing without the services of their regular skipper, Kane Williamson. They will look to gain momentum before the gala event.
At the top Danushka Gunathilaka will be pairing up with Avishka Fernando. After a mediocre Test series, Kusal Perara will be back to the format where he has enjoyed playing his shots. Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella will be forming the middle-order and the latter will also be seen behind the stumps. Mendis needs to play the anchor role in the absence of seniors.
Shehan Jayasuriya might get a chance because of his recent track record in the domestic circuit. Dasun Shanaka and Isuru Udana will be fighting for the role of the third seamer. The spin department will be served by Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan. Skipper, Lasith Malinga will be charging the pace battery along with Lahiru Kumara.
Danushka Gunathilaka (C), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perara, Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella (WK), Shehan Jayasuriya, Isuru Udana/ Dasun Shanaka, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga (C), Lahiru Kumara.
The tested opening pair of Martin Guptill and Colin Munro will be keen to put up a show after their below-par World Cup performances. Tim Seifert will be returning to the fold after missing the ICC event owing to injury. Ross Taylor will be shouldering the middle-order duties and he will be accompanied by Tom Bruce.
Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme will be the all-round options in the playing XI. The former will also be sharing the spinner’s tag with Ish Sodhi. In the absence of Kane Williamson, the team will be working under the leadership of Tim Southee. He will also be the premier fast-bowler of the team. Lockie Ferguson and Scott Kuggeleijn will complete the pace attack.
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Tim Seifert (WK), Ross Taylor, Tom Bruce/Todd Astle, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee (C), Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson, Scott Kuggeleijn.
The focus will be on
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
In the last year or so the veteran has regained his mojo in the international circuit. In the 2019 World Cup, he was the highest wicket-taker for his side. Then a month ago he retired from ODIs after playing the first game of the series against Bangladesh and wished to serve the country till 2020 WC. Lasith Malinga is a genius in the shortest format and his spells will decide the fate of the series.
Tim Siefert ( New Zealand)
Tim Seifert was the hero when the Kiwis won their last T20I series earlier in the year. He thrashed the Indian bowlers to all parts of the ground. His heroics made him a frontrunner for the World Cup squad but an untimely injury shattered his dreams. Now he will be hungry to score more runs and book his place for the next year’s championship.
Head to head
Matches played – 16 | Sri Lanka won – 6 | New Zealand won – 8 | Tie – 1 | No result – 1
3 – Number of games that have failed to produce a winner when Sri Lanka has played a T20I against New Zealand at Pallekele
41 – Batting average recorded by Kusal Perara in T20Is at Pallekele
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Match Timings – 19:00 PM IST and local
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