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May 31, 2023
Beefed up Lankan outfit seek to shed hangover of last year pipped by Afghanistan to automatic world cup qualification

Sri Lanka Cricket

By Srian Obeyesekere

Seeking to rid the hangover 60–run defeat that saw virtual newcomers to the game Afghanistan gain automatic qualification for this year’s World Cup at the expense of the 1995-96 world champions, it is quite a revamped Sri Lankan outfit that sees a surprise U-turn reposing of faith in the once axed former captain Dimuth Karunaratne in a 16-member squad that also has the already back in biff bang business of another former captain Angelo Mathews from long time oblivion since the away series versus New Zealand in that double shocker who are likely  certainties along with young 20-year old  pacer Matheesha Pathirana on a high fresh from starring for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s champion IPL team lined up. Together with injury free ace speedster Dushmantha Chameera for the opener of the 3-match ODI home series against Afghanistan commencing tomorrow Thursday June 1 at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, in that backdrop, for a smarting Sri Lanka by that misadventure despite levelling the series 1-all that has pushed Dasun Shanaka and his men to fight it from the outside qualifier to make it for the extravaganza, it will be a type of grudge battle to regaining lost prestige. It will by no means by easy with Afghanistan who have proved in no uncertain terms that they are a gung ho outfit with quite some trump cards in the pack best demonstrated by Ibrahim Zadran’s match winning 106 and Faxalhaq Farooki’s 4-wicket take in containing the Lankans to 234 defending a tall score of 294 for 8 on that occasion.
Indeed, a beefed up Lankan side by the presence of a calculated battler in the 35-year old Karunaratne despite a not much to speak of aggregate of 767 runs with highest of 97 from 42 matches. The left hand opening batsman has since raised his stocks with the bat in pleasing returns leading the test team as the country’s leading run getter in the harsh rigors of test cricket. Mathews, also touching 35 years, is in quest of the magical 6000 needing just 147 runs more to further up his stadings ingrained as a game warrior for his country with some proud conquests to his credit with the bat and as a leader.
Axed are four who toured New Zealand in Dildhan Madushka, Pramod Madushan, Sahan Arachchige and Dunith Wellalage, the latter who though  has progressively proved to be a plucky all-rounder in the making and  is a mite unlucky at that. The drafting of 27-year old wicket-keeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama adds meat to the available composition.
The likely Chameera-Pathirana combination makes interesting reading. The 31-year old left armer has proved to be a quality wicket taking find whose progress had been hampered by injury lay off and his return is bound to reinforce the bowling while Matheesha Pathirana straight from his IPL exploits with 9 wickets in the bag under the mentoring of former Indian captain Dhoni has certainly steeled the youngster hailing from Kandy in the trade. Leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga is another returnee fresh from IPL duty.
All in all, Sri Lanka will have to guard against an ominous Afghanistan side whose strong point is the winning muscle skipper Hashmatullah’s team has forged in doing the war torn country proud by their attacking brand of cricket that has already firmly insulated them among the top teams  for the 2023 ICC World Cup.
Sri Lanka
Dasun Shanaka (C), Kusal Mendis (V.C), (w), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama (w), Chamika Karunaratne, Dulshan Hemantha, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Maheesh Theekshana.
Hashmatullah Shahidi (C), Rahmat Shah (V.C), Fareed Ahmed, Ikram Alikhi, Fazal Haq Farooqe, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (w), Riaz Hassan, Rashid Khan, Mohamnad Nabi, Axmatullah Omarzai, Abdul Rahman, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Ibrahim Zadran, Najeebullah Zadran.
-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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