Sri Lanka seek batting boost in must-win game against Afghanistan

ASIA CUP, 2018


Sri Lanka will be hoping for a quick turnaround following their loss to Bangladesh © AFP

As much as winning, losing can become a habit too. Sri Lanka, who have won just nine and lost 29 ODIs since winning the tri-series in the West Indies in 2016-17, are paddling through one such barren phase. The island nation started the Asia Cup 2018 yet again with a defeat as they slid to a 137-run loss against Bangladesh in Dubai. Sri Lanka would look to breathe life into their lacklustre performances when they take on Afghanistan in what turns out to be a must-win tie for them on Monday (September 17).

Despite starting the tournament on a losing note, Sri Lanka would take a few positives from the game. Lasith Malinga, the team’s lynchpin, who was returning to the ODI XI after a gap of one year, bowled zestful spells in the heat to bag four wickets. He blended a slew of bumpers with fuller length deliveries and slower ones to keep the opposition in check. Suranga Lakmal, his bowling partner, also bowled with good control.

On the flip side, Sri Lanka would hope for a better show from their batsmen in their second game. Sri Lanka’s struggles with the bat can be capsulised by the fact that Upul Tharanga top-scored for them with 27, while only two other batters crossed the 20-run mark against Bangladesh. Sri Lanka’s think tank also would be worried about their inability to provide the finishing touches with the ball in hand. In their first game, they allowed the opposition to recover from 203 for 8 to post a respectable score of 261.

Afghanistan, their opponents, have been in fine form in the recent past, having won a couple of ODI series against Ireland and Zimbabwe, and they also emerged triumphant in the World Cup Qualifiers. Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Shahzad, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi have all made 300-plus runs this season in ODIs. Shah was also in good nick in the series versus Ireland, where he put up decent performances on tricky surfaces.

On the bowling front, the spin twins, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rehman, will be expected to make an impact on slow tracks in the UAE. Sharafuddin Ashraf and Nabi form the rest of the spin quartet. With the pacemen finding some seam movement under lights, Afghanistan may be tempted to bolster the pace attack by picking both Aftab Alam and Wafadar.

When: September 17, 2018, 3:30 PM Local time

Where: Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

What to expect: With the venue expected to be baked in sunshine, most teams would perhaps prefer to bat first. Over a period of time, pacers have also found some assistance under lights in the UAE but the track in Abu Dhabi is expected to be slower.

Team News:

Sri Lanka may look at bolstering the batting line-up by bringing in Niroshan Dickwella for one of the all rounders. Akila Dananjaya, Sri Lanka’s main spinner, is expected to return to the fold for the crucial tie.

Probable XI: Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews (c), Niroshan Dickwella/Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga

Afghanistan have a settled look to their line-up and may play the same XI that beat Ireland in the final ODI of the three-match series played in Belfast. However, with pacers expected to find some assistance during the second innings, there is still a slim chance of Wafadar getting an opportunity.

Probable XI: Mohammad Shahzad, Ihsanullah, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Asghar Afghan (c), Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Did you know?

– Sri Lanka have beaten Afghanistan in both the ODIs played against each other – by 129 runs in Asia Cup 2014 and by four wickets in World Cup 2015.

– Rahmat Shah has been dismissed for a single-figure score only once in his last 17 innings, dating back to the Ireland series in Sharjah last December.

– Rashid Khan has taken 29 wickets from 11 ODIs he played in UAE, at an average of 12.07 and a scalp every 20 balls.

What they said:

“We had to change our combination, especially looking back at the South African series. We played one extra batsman there. We had to change becuase of injuries to Danushka and Chandimal. So we went in with one less batsman, thinking that Dilruwan (Perera) can also bat at No. 8. But bulk of the batting has to be done by the top-order batters, and we’ve let the team down, the whole batting unit. Unfortunately, we made a lot of bad decisions while batting (against Bangladesh): Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka captain.

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