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Sri Lanka vs. Oman curtain raiser a much hyped contest


The curtain raiser between Sri Lanka and Oman in a Group A match in the Asian Cricket Council organised Under-23 Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2019 at the Sheikh Kamal International Cricket Stadium, Cox’s Bazar Academy in Bangladesh tomorrow Thursday will generate much interest. While Sri Lanka, as the reigning champions goes out favourites, the added interest will be in that there is a Sri Lankan hand that has been guiding Oman cricket in former veteran Sri Lanka captain Duleep Mendis as its longtime coach.

For an Arab desert country to which cricket had been something new in a football crazy land until a few years ago when the concept caught on Oman has done well under the tutelage of Mendis as its as its Chief Development Officer and National Cricket Head Coach in putting Oman on the threshold of gaining ICC ODI status. It is therein the Duleep Mendis element based in Oman for the past six years in nurturing youngsters with next to no real knowledge of cricket to gaining recognition in a short period that has created hype when the two sides meet. While Sri Lanka will of course enjoy the clear advantage of the inherent cricketing background in the game furthered by a champion outfit skippered by former Richmond College captain Charith Asalanka, the performance of Oman’s emerging youngsters in a major tournament will come to focus as to what extent they can match the strong Sri Lankans. When the two sides last met in the same tournament last year Sri Lanka, as the host team, beat

Oman by 109 runs, but it was to Oman’s credit that they put up a brave show by scoring 215 for 8 wickets in reply to Sri Lanka’s massive total of 324 for 5.

Sri Lanka are well oiled up in all departments of the game with some versatile batsmen in skipper Asalanka, Pathum Nissanka, Shammu Ashan, Ashen Bandara, Hasitha Boyagoda, Minod Bhanuka and Kamindu Mendis the vice captain while there are several potential match winning all-rounders in Asitha Fernando, Kalana Perera, Shiran Fernando and Ramesh Mendis, while  Amila Aponso in the spin department carries experience having represented the mainstream Sri Lanka national team a few times.

This year, it will be a new look Oman side led by all-rounder Amir Kaleem who replaces Zeeshan Maqsood as captain while dashing batsman Aqib Ilyas retains his position as the team’s vice-captain. Apart from Maqsood, Oman Cricket has also rested senior players Khawar Ali and Bilal Khan for the 50-over tournament while speedster Gopendra Bohra replaces Khan following a series of impressive performances in the country’s top league as the highest wicket-taker in the recently concluded ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier in UAE. All-rounder Sanuth Ebrahim and slow left-arm Badal Singh join Jay Odedra in the team to complete a trio of spin bowlers apart from Kaleem, who is a left-arm spinner.

The 2019 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup will be the 4th edition of the tournament hosted by Bangladesh from November 14 to 23 with eight teams in the fray including five under-23 age level teams of Test nations and top three teams from the 2018 Asia Cup Qualifier. Nepal has replaced the United Arab Emirates. Teams from each group will reach the semifinals, scheduled to be held on November 20 and 21 while the final will be played on 23rd.

SRI LANKA SQUAD: Charith Asalanka (Capt.), Kamindu Mendis (Vice Capt.), Pathum Nissanka, Hasith Boyagoda, Ashen Bandara, Shammu Ashan, Nishan Madushka, Jehan Daniel, Asitha Fernando, Kalana Perera, Ramesh Mendis, Amila Aponso, Shiran Fernando, Sachindu Colombage.

OMAN SQUAD: Amir Kaleem (captain), Aqib Ilyas (vice-captain), Jatinder Singh, Suraj Kumar, Sandeep Goud, Muhammed Naseem, Khurram Nawaz Khan, Mehran Khan, Sanuth Ebrahim, Jay Odedra, Badal Singh, Muhammed Nadeem, Ahmed Fayyaz Butt, Kaleemullah and Gopendra Bohra.

By Srian Obeyesekere

-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-

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