Zimbabwe tour of Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis to Open Batting in First ODI

By Mustaq Sydeen | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 15 2022
Sports Zimbabwe tour of Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis  to Open Batting in First ODI

By Mustaq Sydeen  

Sri Lanka white ball skipper Dasun Shanaka disclosed that Kusal Mendis will be opening the innings when the Islanders take on Zimbabwe in the first match of the three match ODI Series starting on Sunday at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.

“We know how important a player like Kusal Mendis is to the team. He had a good outing in the recently concluded LPL and I hope we have a huge impact with his inclusion to the squad. We are looking forward to see him opening the bating for us in the first game,” said skipper Dasun Shanaka addressing the media through video technology yesterday.  

Hosts Sri Lanka were forced to drop three players that tested positive for COVID-19 when the final squad was named for the series on Thursday.

The dropouts meant room opened up for some familiar faces to return, with the biggest beneficiaries from the re-jigged squad being undoubtedly Kusal Mendis, who had an outstanding LPL campaign. Mendis ended the tournament as the highest run-scorer, including a match-winning 53-ball 85 against eventual champions Jaffna Kings in the first Qualifier.

Apart from Kusal Mendis, wicket keeper batter Niroshan Dickwella has also been included in the squad as a standby. 

“Niroshan Dickwella has also been included in the squad as a standby player, in case another player or another COVID case is detected among the current squad as a back-up,” Dasun further added. 

Earlier, the trio of Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella had their one-year bans on playing international cricket lifted less than six months into the suspension period. It is learnt the decision follows a request made by them - similar to the one which saw their six-month domestic ban lifted early as well - to allow them to compete in the LPL in December, while the last few months have also seen each of them undergo counselling.

The hosts are coming off the back of an excellent performance in their recent Test series against West Indies, and whilst this is a different format of cricket which will likely see a number of changes in players to boot, with home advantage in their favour Sri Lanka should have enough ability within their line-up to accumulate a healthy score when they bat. Combine that with a bowling unit, that should wind up far too strong for Zimbabwe in the usual spin-friendly conditions in Kandy, and then it makes backing a Sri Lanka victory in this first ODI a no brainer.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe are very much a national side in transition following the retirement of Taylor, who has been a key figure for them with the bat over many years, and it would be no surprise if the tourists were to struggle on a surface likely to benefit the home side and their plethora of dangerous spin-bowling options.

The tourists will need to put together a batting order capable of making up the runs lost by Brendan Taylor’s retirement, with Craig Ervine named as captain and the experienced duo of Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams expected to form the spine of their batting order.

By Mustaq Sydeen | Published: 2:00 AM Jan 15 2022

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