Favourites Sri Lanka will be challenged by short format shockers Afghanistan
By Srian Obeyesekere
Sri Lanka and Afghanistan renew rivalry in the ODI format in the hill climes of the Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium from this week’s one-off Test match with the visitors reverting on Friday to the more familiar short format on which Hashmatullah Shahidi’s charges have fast earned a name and will seek to atone for the lost test match. Indeed, Afghanistan’s gung-ho in ODI cricket has been their strongpoint in earning the respect of the world in shocking heavyweights in the game since entering the ICC fold in June 2017. Victory over Sri Lanka at last year’s world cup by a handsome 7 wickets in fact fleetingly raised their semi-final hopes. They also stunned England and Pakistan on the way.
In the one-off historic test match at the SSC Afghanistan lost to Sri Lanka by 10 wickets, but not before the minnows did claim a chapter their way by a third day’s 199 for 1 respectability showcased by a century maker in Ibrahim Zadran, before tripping up. That one iota of success did manifest Afghanistan’s flair which is badly in need of greater exposure that their skipper Shahidi and Head Coach Jonathan Trot say they are starved of best illustrated by the fact that they have played a meagre 7 test matches in 7 years.
While hosts Sri Lanka continue to enjoy a better record leverage in the ODI format as well by a 6-3-win record, Afghanistan is bound to fire on all cylinders in the game they know best. Their record of having downed heavyweights in the game where victories against three former world champions in Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan in that order at the 2023 world cup is certainly heady stuff to carrying the thrust to making amends for their test match defeat to the Lankans.
The Lankan squad accentuates on youth with the selectors continuing with a mix of newcomers conspicuously all-round batsman Janith Liyanage who debuted against Zimbabwe while batsman Shevon Daniel and batsman Sahan Arachchige are notable inclusions.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has made three changes from the squad against Zimbabwe which sees former captain Dasun Shanaka axed following a poor run just over one year that cost him the captaincy, but was again given an opportunity to atone against Zimbabwe but failed to make an impact. Also excluded are batsman Nuwanidu Fernando and spin bowler Jeffrey Vandersay with all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne and opener Shevon Daniel making the squad.
SRI LANKA SQUAD:
Kusal Mendis (capt), Charith Asalanka, Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Sahan Arachchige, Shevon Daniel, Janith Liyanage, Chamika Karunaratne, Maheesh Theekshana, Dilshan Madushanka, Dushmantha Chameera, Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Akila Dananjaya, Wanindu Hasaranga
Hashmatullah Shahidi (C), Rahmat Shah (VC), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Ikram Alikhil (WK), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Qais Ahmad, Noor Ahmad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Naveed Zadran and Farid Ahmad Malik.
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