In the compelling fast and furious pace of T20 cricket, braving the underdog handicap to cracking England in the lion’s den known to revel in their own cool clime seaming conditions will be the tall order new look Sri Lanka face in the opener of the 3-match T20 series at Cardiff on June 23. Fronting that totally revamped reality situation is newly anointed skipper Kusal Janith Perera, whose characteristic aggressive attacking batsman ship upfront is an ideally matching script to the biff bang game, will be the hype in a trying test of deliverance with the willow in marshaling his young charges against a well-oiled England. That is despite not having the services of trump cards Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer through injury.
The odds as might be, the Lankans do count a variety of players capable of meeting the demands of galloping cricket by the very nature of the abbreviated hamburger version of the game that has transcended cricket into the fascinating. In the batting, there are a range of run savvy stroke makers while in the bowling what fires the imagination from a Sri Lankan standpoint is the presence of the record breaking spin prodigy Praveen Jayawickrama in a potential wicket taking double edged twosome combination with another youth discovery in Ramesh Mendis. Mendis too has in his foray into international cricket against Bangladesh proved to be a perfect wicket taking cushion to Jayawickrama, and could well exploit spin friendly English conditions to Sri Lanka’s advantage.
That the England camp has already thrown the gauntlet of playing attacking cricket voiced by Head Coach Chris Silverwood centered on perfecting their world cup build up, is an insight to what the Lankans can expect from the hosts led by Eoin Morgan insulated as one of the most rousing batsmen in instant cricket. Morgan, like his Sri Lankan opposite number, packs fire right upfront opening the batting. England boast of capable old soldiers in Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow – who experienced a niggling injury scare a day ago in a county game, but has been cleared to play – Jason Roy and Jos Butler to deliver with the bat while injury reinforcements include all-rounedr Chris Woakes, spinner Liam Dawson and seamer David Willey.
Despite, a blotched 1-2 start to his campaign against Bangladesh in an anointment to leading with next to no experience in the form following a captaincy shake up by the axing of Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Janith Perera coming from behind bludgeoning a match winning century in that final atonement has certainly raised the left-hander’s stocks from scratch to stirring the imagination of the connoisseur. Significantly, it is the 31-year old new found skipper’s inherent crackerjack self stylised willow works on which he has trumped his way to gaining the national selectors confidence as the man for the job in Sri Lanka’s stated build up to the approaching T20 World Cup and the big one of all – the2023 Cricket World Cup.
Despite having to adjust to English wickets in cool, seaming climes, the Lankan camp does possess a cast of exciting performers with bat and ball who will face the acid test against a highly professional Engalnd. In that thrust, the pre-series concerns expressed by Sri Lanka’s Head Coach, Mick Arthur about plugging the middle order without which chasing imposing targets was negative, is a throw up to the issue. While there is a pack of batsmen, young Ramesh Mendis, who made a pleasing entry in the biff bang game as a batting all-rounder with the trimmings of an exciting stroke-maker who could hold one end, will certainly be a candidate to follow after Dhananjaya de Silva. The head coach’s concern is a lending element as to the value input in the hard hitting Wanindu Hasaranga who bats No. 8 and whether the best of this extraordinary run accumulator is lost therein. A few slots up Hasaranga, a batsman with the gift to use his feet to good effect, could well be the beefing solidity.
The advent of Avishka Fernando must also serve as a reinforcement where his appetite for runs could well make him the candidate for the pivotal No.3 slot with skipper Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka having proved to be a positive combination opening the batting. In the bowling department, the pairing of young spin prodigy, Praveen Jayawickrama and Ramesh Mendis on English wickets could be a positive factor while there are a number of fast bowlers to choose from with injury sidelined veteran Nuwan Pradeep also in contention.
For the record, England have won 5 to Sri Lanka’s 4 past exchanges.
SRI LANKA SQUAD:
Kusal Perera (c), Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Chamika Karunaratne, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ramesh Mendis, Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Isuru Udana, Binura Fernando, Nuwan Pradeep, Shiran Fernando, Praveen Jayawickrama, Asitha Fernando and Ishan Jayaratne.
Eoin Morgan (Middlesex) Captain, Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Sam Billings (Kent), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Sam Curran (Surrey), Tom Curran (Surrey), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), David Willey (Yorkshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) , Mark Wood (Durham)
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-