Sri Lanka shall be locking horns against South Africa in their opening group encounter of the ICC Champions Trophy at the Oval in London on Saturday. The match is scheduled to commence at 3 pm. The Lankans were handed a humiliating 5-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa in the last bilateral series played between the sides.
The Sri Lankan team are in a process of rebuilding after they lost a galaxy of stalwarts in Tillekratne Dilshan, Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene who all bid adieu to the game in the recent past. Sri Lanka are drawn in Group B along with defending champs India, Asian neighbours Pakistan and a formidable South African team.
Sri Lanka received a big dent to their tournament preparations by losing to unfancied Scotland in the warm up game. However, they dint fare too badly when they lost a cliffhanger of a game against the Aussies on May 26th. Meanwhile their opponents, South Africa, the number one ranked team come into the tournament after losing a closely fought ODI series to hosts England.
Sri Lanka Squad for Champions Trophy
Angelo Mathews (captain), Upul Tharanga (vice-captain), Niroshan Dickwella (wicketkeeper), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal (wicketkeeper), Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thisara Perera, Lakshan Sandakan and Seekkuge Prasanna.
Sri Lanka's batting looks relatively inexperienced after the mass exodus of their batting stalwarts, nevertheless they have a good blend of youth and seasoned campaigners. They have natural stroke-makers in Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis and who could be dangerous with the bat upfront.The middle order would be provided stability and composure in the form of Dinesh Chamdimal, Upul Tharanga and Angelo Matthews. While veteran opener Upul Tharanga has been in good touch, Dinesh Chandimal would like to hold the middle order together with his cool and calm temperament. Ace all-rounders Angelo Matthews and Thisara Perera brings balance to the side with both bat and ball. Young turk Asela Gunaratne has proved his mantle as a dangerous customer with willow down the order by producing some whirlwind cameos. They have the hard-hitting all-rounder Thisara Perera in their side who can change the course of a game with his belligerent hitting.
Sri Lanka's pace attack shall be led by their pace spearhead Lasith Mallinga who has made a strong comeback after being out of international action due to a sustained injury. Mallinga shall be well partnered by another experienced seamer in Nuwan Kulaserkara. Kulasekara, who is quite handy in seaming conditions would relish bowling in English conditions. Meanwhile Suranga Lakmal has been their most improvised bowler in the last season or so. They also have Matthews and Perera who can bowl their medium pacers to great effect on seaming tracks in England. Sri Lankans don't have a quality spinner in their ranks but the likes of Lakshan Sandakan and Seekkuge Prasanna have impressed in their brief spells in the in limited overs cricket.
Record in Champions Trophy
Sri Lanka shall be playing their 8th successive Champions Trophy. They have never missed out on featuring the multi-nation event since its inception in 1998.
Sri Lanka won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2002, the year it hosted the event. Sri Lanka shared the trophy with India after rail played spoilsport in the finals at Colombo. Sri Lanka also made it to the semifinals in 2013 and 2000 besides being quarter finalist in the opening edition in 1998.
Sri Lanka's record in Champions Trophy -
Total Played 23
Going by their team composition and the opponents they play in the group, Sri Lanka shall have to play out of their skins to progress to the knockouts.They can manage to pull off a win against inconsistent Pakistan but need to play some spectacular cricket to upset stronger team like India and South Africa.It has to be seen whether the Lankans have the fire in their belly to produce some moments of magic in the tournament and leave a mark of their own with a relatively young side.