Weather in spotlight as SL hopeful of winning start

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Sri Lanka white ball skipper Dasun Shanaka believes his team has a good chance to open the series on a winning note when they take on Australia in the first T20 today under lights at RPS, Colombo.

The two sides last met in February 2022 for 5 T20Is (in Australia) where the home team got the better of the touring side claiming the series 4-1. 

“As a team we are fully prepared for the Australian challenge. We had a close series against Australia earlier this year and it was in their conditions. We’re pretty confident that we would be able to turn things around in our conditions,” said Dasun Shanaka at the pre-match media briefing in Colombo yesterday. 

Sri Lanka have named newcomers Nuwanidu Fernando and Matheesha Pathirana in the squad. Nuwanidu starred in the recent tour of England with Sri Lanka’s Development Squad. Pathirana made headlines in the IPL playing for Chennai Super Kings and will get the opportunity to work with Lasith Malinga in this series, who is the bowling coach once again. But it looks as though the hosts will back their senior bowlers, with Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana set to put Australia’s top order in a spin.

“We got players who played well in the recently concluded IPL. Boys are looking forward to win the series and bring some pride to the country. A series win against a team like Australia is a big thing at this moment,” Dasun further added.

Speaking about team plans, Dasun disclosed that Kusal Mendis will keep wickets in the absence of Kusal Perera and believes that the batters should click to put up a good show.

“Our bowling is quite formidable, but our batting needs to fire. We got a strong batting line up with players like Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Talking about bowling, we got a world class bowling line up and looking forward for a special performance from them. Kusal Mendis has been a vital player for us during the recent past encounters, and will keep wickets for us,” the skipper added. 

Cricket in Sri Lanka was played mostly to empty stadiums for two years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, although 50% capacity was allowed for the Test series against the West Indies in Galle last December.

Tickets went on sale Saturday for the Tuesday and Wednesday encounters, and were sold out within five hours.

“In these difficult times we saw spectators queuing up to buy tickets to witness the match, and for their sake we are ready to deliver a good show,” Dasun concluded.

On the other hand, T20 world champions Australians unveiled a formidable XI, including Steve Smith in the middle order at the expense of Josh Inglis, to take on Sri Lanka in the series opener.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) stated on Monday all income from tickets for the entire series (3 T20s, 5 ODIs and two Tests) would be donated to public welfare initiatives.

“These are tough times for our people,” SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva told reporters in Colombo. “We are indeed grateful to Cricket Australia and the Australian Government for supporting this series despite the hardships we as a nation are facing.”

SLC have already donated USD 2 million to the health sector to buy essential medicines.

Probable XI:

Sri Lanka: Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (WK), Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (C), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Maheesh Theekshana

Australia: Aaron Finch (C), David Warner, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (WK), Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Josh Hazlewood

By Mustaq Sydeen