Sri Lanka T20I Squad for the tour of Australia: Hits and misses
Sri Lanka arrive on the Australian shores with confidence on two counts.
One, they are coming off a 3-0 clean sweep against the number one ranked T20I side, Pakistan in their own den and that too when they were not even playing with their frontline cricketers. If the backup boys can achieve such a feat, the regulars can certainly cause an upset or two. And, two upsets is all it takes to bag a 3-match series.
Two, the last time Sri Lanka toured Australia for a T20 series was in 2017 when the team returned with a 2-1 victory and will have happy memories of that tour.
That said, Australia are looking as well-rounded as they have in a long time with the return of David Warner and Steve Smith. The team also has genuine pace this time around with each of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Billy Stanlake in the mix and it would be a tall order for Sri Lanka to run the hosts close.
Let's have a look at the hits and misses of the Sri Lankan T20I squad announced for the tour of Australia:
The wily Malinga bowls on
Lasith Malinga has been a great servant of Sri Lankan cricket and continues to carry the Lankan bowling on his shoulders in the shortest format of the game. Even in the recently concluded 2019 World Cup, after which he retired from the format, Malinga was the top wicket-taker for the team with 13 scalps from 7 matches.
He backed his performances in the showpiece event with 7 wickets in the three-match T20I series against New Zealand at home which included a double hat-trick i.e four wickets in four balls to become the first bowler to claim five international hat-tricks. In his last T20, he ended with extraordinary figures of 5-6 off four overs and will be the biggest threat for the Aussie batsmen.
Australian pitches will suit Sri Lankan batsmen
A whole crop of Sri Lanka batsmen - Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella and Bhanuka Rajapaksa - love to cut and pull. Those unaware of these names or those who did not follow Sri Lanka's recent series against New Zealand or Pakistan can picture Sanath Jayasuriya getting stuck into the opposition pace bowlers in the ODI powerplay.
The left-handed Kusal Perera, in fact, was touted as the next Sanath Jayasuriya but has not really been able to live up to the expectations. All these players have a natural tendency to play cross-batted shots against short pitched deliveries and the Australian conditions might prove just perfect for them.
The hissing Hasaranga
The absence of Akila Dananjaya would be felt but in Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka have found a leg spinner who has the variations and the googly, in particular, to baffle the opposition batsmen. He walked away with the Man of the Series award in the recently concluded 3-match T20I series against Pakistan where he picked up 8 wickets as the Pakistan players, who are traditionally known to be good against spinners, were not able to pick him.
In fact, Hasaranga bowled both Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfaraz Ahmed while trapping Umar Akmal in front of the wickets in the same over in the 2nd T20I. In the last match of the tour as well, he got through the defences of Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and castled him. In his young 6-match T20I career, Hasaranga has an impressive average of 12.
Death bowling an issue
Lasith Malinga is obviously a star at the death for the team and is one of the best death bowlers of all time. He will get some support from Isuru Udana who has developed good slower deliveries and can hold his own in the slog overs.
Apart from the duo, the likes of Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha have a tendency to leak a lot of runs at the death. They have gone for big runs over and over again and this is one thing which the Australian batsmen can exploit.
Past stars gone missing
Asela Gunaratne, Dilshan Munaweera and Milinda Siriwardana were the architects of the Sri Lankan 2-1 victory in 2017 T20Is. Unfortunately, all of these three batsmen don't find a place in the squad.
Asela Gunaratne, in particular, scored a total of 140 runs in the series and was the backbone of the Sri Lankan unit. Gunaratne bagged the Man of the Match award in both the first two T20Is in which Sri Lanka won and also walked away with the Man of the Series trophy.
Inexperienced bunch in unfamiliar conditions
Many of the players in the Sri Lankan team are touring Australia for the first time and might take a while to adjust to the pace and bounce. In a 3-match series, you really don't have any time to adjust.
The two practice matches may come to their rescue. However, the young players might need some more time to adjust to the conditions and it might be too late before they are acclimatized and ready to fire, by which time the series would be all but over.
Let's have a look at the Sri Lankan squad for the 3-match T20I series:
Sri Lanka- Lasith Malinga (c), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha
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