The gulf between the two sides kept fluctuating in the three-match ODI series. Yet, the men from the Caribbean could not gun down the Lankans in either of the matches. And while the 50-over games may not carry much relevance at this point for either team, it has set the scene for the couple of T20 internationals that will follow. It is the final tilt for the two sides before setting foot in Australia to compete for the ultimate prize in the shortest form of the game.
Sri Lanka may have reigned supreme in the ODI series having had their key players back. However, their T20 setup is far from superior, even with their full-strength team. Skipper Lasith Malinga, who has remained their trump card over the years, has starting to become the cause of their misery. His last five matches have yielded only two wickets and even as he prepares to bow out of the game, he would want to do it memorably.
Their preparation has also received a hit in the form of injuries to strike bowler Nuwan Pradeep and spin-bowling all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva. The selectors have welcomed Thisara Perera into the squad, who made significant contributions in the ODIs and would need to level up further in the T20s. The home side will also need their other big-ticket players like Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews, and Wanindu Hasaranga to step up to avoid their third consecutive series loss.
The reigning World Champions have had their squad turn upside down in T20s since their heist victory in Kolkata four years ago. From the eleven that bagged their second T20 title, only Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, and Andre Russell are part of the current squad.
Marlon Samuels and Carlos Brathwaite – the two catalysts of that triumph appear nowhere in the frame for now. And yet, despite being ranked tenth in the rankings, they have the firepower to run through the hosts and lift the trophy in Melbourne in November.
The tourists will miss Evin Lewis at the top of the order having also missed the ODI series. But they will welcome the likes of Shimron Hetmyer, Oshane Thomas, Fabian Allen, and Andre Russell back into the fold. The middle-order consisting of Shimron Hetmyer, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, and Andre Russell gives them the flexibility and more than enough firepower to run riot in Kandy twice. The presence of Russell and Bravo primarily provides the edge that West Indies missed in ODIs, both in terms of bat and ball.
With Danushka Gunathilaka still nursing an injury, Niroshan Dickwella could open the innings along with Avishka Fernando. The likes of Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, and Dasun Shanaka are likely to take the next four spots. Lakshan Sandakan and Wanindu Hasaranga would headline the spin-bowling department for the hosts.
Probable XI: Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera(wk), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga(c), Isuru Udana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan
Brandon King is likely to occupy the opening spot alongside Lendl Simmons for the visitors while Nicholas Pooran will mostly take the gloves behind the stumps. With the presence of as many as three fast-bowling all-rounders and set to feature in the eleven, West Indies could play both the spinners.
Probable XI: Lendl Simmons, Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran(wk), Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard(c), Andre Russell, Fabian Allen, Hayden Walsh, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas/Kesrick Williams
Focus will be on:
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka):
None other than the captain of the ship himself. Lasith Malinga is not the yorker specialist he was once due to recurring injuries curtailing his pace and ability. At 36, the speedster once indicated that he would want to take the one-time champions at least till the knockout stages of the World T20 later this year before he retires. He would thoroughly be looking forward to this T20 series and the IPL after that to prepare himself for his likely final ICC event.
Andre Russell (West Indies):
It’s been more than a year since Andre Russell represented West Indies in a T20 international, having played previously in August 2018. For all his ability across every facet, the Jamaican marauder’s fragile body is the very reason for playing only a few games throughout the year. Perhaps, with the T20 World Cup on the horizon, Russell’s game-changing abilities would indeed form the centre of attention leading up to the same. And with the IPL looming as well, the 31-year old must use these opportunities wisely and keep himself fit throughout the tournament down under.
Head to Head:
Played – 9 |Won by Sri Lanka – 6 | Won by West Indies – 3
5/6 –Lasith Malinga recorded his best T20I figures of 4-1-6-5 at the Pallekele ground against New Zealand in September 2019.
2 – Two more T20 internationals for Dwayne Bravo would put him in level with Denesh Ramdin, who has played 71 matches for the national side. By achieving that, both would become the second-most capped players for the Caribbeans in the shortest format. Their captain, Kieron Pollard, has also featured in 71 T20I fixtures so far.
2016 – Sri Lanka and West Indies last met in a T20 international four years ago. It was at the group stage of the 2016 World T20 in Bengaluru which the men in maroon won by seven wickets.
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Match timings – 7:00 pm IST, 7:00 pm local
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