A contender for game of the Cricket World Cup has seen Sri Lanka come away with a thrilling 20-run upset win over England at Headingley.
This is the hardest squad prediction I’ve done so far.
Sri Lanka have changed captains faster than we change our Prime Ministers. They haven’t won a bilateral ODI series since May 2016 and their board is just as bad as Arsenal’s. But here’s my Sri Lanka squad.
Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kusal Mendis, Dimuth Karunaratne (captain) and Angelo Mathews
Sadeera Samarawickrama has shown glimpses of what he can do in his irregular chances in international cricket and Sri Lankan fans have advocated for his selection based on his domestic form.
Kusal Mendis averages 28 in ODI cricket after 60 games, but there’s literally no-one better than him to replace him and he plays the odd decent innings here and there.
Dimuth Karunaratne is set to replace Lasith Malinga as captain for the World Cup, but following a drink-driving incident and him being fined $7500, there may be a chance for Upul Tharanga to come in.
Angelo Mathews is the only certainty as he carries their batting line-up – provided his hamstrings don’t bust when he’s walking from the team bus into the stadium.
Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Dhananjaya De Silva and Asela Gunaratne
Thisara Perera has really improved under Chandika Hathurusingha. His potential is finally being utilised, especially with the bat. His 140 against New Zealand in January showed that he can shepherd the tail and be just as destructive in pressure situations.
Isuru Udana has recently shown he can be as with the bat as he can with the ball. Stop putting him down at No. 9 and get him up to No. 7, Sri Lanka.
Dhananjaya De Silva is better utilised as an all-rounder rather than a top-order batsman, and his off spin is handy. Asela Gunaratne’s off cutters alongside his finishing ability are the best compared to the likes of Dasun Shanaka and Milinda Siriwardana.
Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Perera
Dickwella and Perera are destructive enough with the bat and can both be in the playing XI with one of them taking the gloves.
Lasith Malinga, Lahiru Kumara and Suranga Lakmal
Malinga has been pretty good since his return into the international arena. He’s still got it in him, and his ability to take wickets at any stage of the game is crucial.
Lahiru Kumara is Sri Lanka’s fastest quick and, provided he’s fit, will cause problems for the opposition. I’ve chosen Lakmal based on English conditions and his bowling suiting them. Should the Lankan selectors adopt an all-out pace attack, Shehan Madushanka could get a go.
Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan
Akila Dananjaya has been one of the rare shining stars in a very dark time for Sri Lankan ODI cricket. He can bowl with the new ball and the old ball and his variations will be effective in England.
Lakshan Sandakan has struggled recently, but the lack of effective spinners and opposition teams rarely having to face left-arm wrist spinner bowlers gives Sandakan the edge over leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.