By Srian Obeyesekere
Asia’s defending champions Sri Lanka enter the thick of the battle into the Super Four of this 16th edition in Saturday’s Day-Night game against Bangladesh at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium on a high of having topped Group B in quest of a hat-trick of milestones – the pot of gold for a seventh title win that would bring Dasun Shanaka’s charges level with leaders India and as much a historic thirteen ODI wins on the trot in the elevation of becoming the second team with the most number of wins at that level next to Australia’s 23.
In a scenario that sees the island nation playing co-hosts to Pakistan accommodating 9 matches including the crunch India-Pakistan clash of the titans, indeed, it will be to an expectant galvanising full throttle fanfare pickup with Asia’s showpiece shifting from Sri Lanka’s hill terrain to the hub of the city metropolis as the home team flexes its muscles for a second go at a comprehensively beaten Bangladesh in the group stage.
The Lankans recoup in a mixture of ups and downs that has brought them midway to successive cup glory against a backdrop of ups and downs minus injured playmaker all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga to the form slumber of skipper Dasun Shanaka which has prompted England born Head Coach, Chris Silverwood to ring out a clarion call to his captain to come out of the bad patch with calculated firepower stroke play to manning the crucial lower order No.7 slot that would be the ultimate lending leverage to a total of 300. While warning against complacency from beating Bangladesh in Pallekelle by 5 wickets on the basis that the opposition packs a potential pace attack on a pitch that would favour fast bowlers in the wake of the continued rains in Colombo, Silverwood’s pep talk has extended to Dhananjaya de Silva in identifying Nos 6 and 7 as the key areas to carrying the momentum from the top order to desirable winning heights in further raising his game of being the lynchpin in taking the side out of troubled waters.
The biggest challenges though lie ahead in the face offs against heavyweights India and Pakistan on September 12 and 14.
In fluctuating fortunes, the driving force has been the solid upfront gelling of Dimuth Karunaratne and Pathum Nissanka of 812 runs between them in 11 innings since June. Karunaratne has scored 514 ODI runs this year at an average of 51.40. A buoying factor has also been Kusal Mendis coming to his element with a blitzkrieg 92 in the game against Afghanistan while Charith Asalanka has propped up the batting at No.5 by some positive knocks. At the same time, Sadeera Samarawickrama at 4 did please with a sound 44 when defeating Bangladesh and is looked to bounce back from subsequent failures.
In the bowling, Kasun Rajitha has displayed wicket-taking flair as his 4 wickets was center piece to downing Afghanistan while Maheesh Theekshana has been decisive in making vital breakthroughs and in the death overs with Dhananjaya de Silva’s innocuous slow stuff fetching wickets while Matheesha Pathirana’s 4 in the opener versus Bangladesh has spurred the side on.
Bangladesh seeks to bounce back this time around from batting setbacks having clicked in downsizing Afghanistan, but being nailed by a superior Pakistani bowling attack.
Sri Lanka Squad:
Dasun Shanaka (c), Pathum Nissanaka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Janith Perera, Kusal Mendis (vc), Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Maheesh Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage, Matheesha Pathirana, Kasun Rajitha, Dushan Hemantha, Binura Fernando, Pramod Madushan.
Shakib Al Hasan (c), Anamul Haque Bijoy, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Towhid Hridoy, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain Dhrubo, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mahmud, Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam, Nasum Ahmed, Shak Mahedi Hasan, Naim Sheikh, Shamim Hossain, Tanzid Hasan Tamim, Tanzim Hasan Sakib.