Dinesh Chandimal has revealed, meanwhile, that Avishka Fernando is set to continue at No. 4
Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga are likely to feature for Sri Lanka in tonight’s T20 World Cup warm-up match against Bangladesh, Dinesh Chandimal has revealed, while confirming that Avishka Fernando is also likely to remain at No. 4 – a position he was utilised in to great effect in the recent T20s against Oman.
Chameera and Hasaranga were part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore team whose IPL season ended on Monday with a loss to Kolkata Knight Riders in the Eliminator in Sharjah. The franchise, however, released the pair from their bio-bubble before that match so they could join their Sri Lanka team-mates ahead of the World Cup warm-ups.
“Wanindu and Dushmantha joined up with the team yesterday and will take part in training later today, so I think both will play in the game against Bangladesh,” Chandimal said, speaking on the eve of the game during a media conference unveiling the team’s new sponsor.
The game against Bangladesh, even if it is a warm-up, is likely to be a far sterner test than the one presented by Oman. That said, in both those T20 games, Sri Lanka found themselves in a spot of bother early on when batting, before being rescued by their middle and lower order.
In the first game, having slipped to 51 for 4 in the 11th over, Sri Lanka got to a match-winning total of 162 thanks to an unbeaten 83 from Fernando, while in the second, chasing a target of 160, Sri Lanka had fallen to 89 for 5 in the 11th over before Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Chamika Karunaratne steered them home. Fernando’s middle-order role proved crucial in that game too, his 33 off 18 the only other highlight in the innings.
So it seems that Sri Lanka now see Fernando as a consistent middle-order option despite his having burst on the scene as an attacking opening batter during the 2019 World Cup.
“Definitely having Avishka play at number four is something we have been working [on], not just in the Oman games, but in the intra-squad matches we played as well before that,” Chandimal said. “And he’s played well in that role. The main thing is that we have good plans, and if on the day we can execute those plans I think we can go far in this tournament.”
On his own role in the side, Chandimal, who just a few months ago had looked a long way off Sri Lanka’s white-ball squads – let alone being selected for the T20 World Cup – says he is happy to play wherever the team needs him. However, in the games against Oman both he and Pathum Nissanka opened the innings, and Chandimal says that’s where he sees his role going forward.
“It’s up to the selectors and the coaches. My plan is to bat as an opener, and keep wickets as well. But if the team needs I can bat anywhere else in the order, and field in the outfield as well.”
Looking ahead to the start of the T20 World Cup’s first round, Chandimal says Sri Lanka will not be taking their Group A opponents – Ireland, Namibia and Netherlands – lightly, with all due diligence being given to their preparations.
“As a team we have done a lot of analysis on the teams that we’re going to face in the qualifiers. Where their batsman like to play, what their bowlers are like, what their strengths are. The one thing is that, on the day, we need to execute the plans on the day. But as for our team, we’re in a good place mentally, and are hopeful of doing well in the tournament.”
Sri Lanka face Bangladesh tonight in a warm-up game, before taking on Papua New Guinea in their second warm-up match on October 14. Sri Lanka will begin their T20 World Cup campaign in the first round against Namibia on October 18.
Match Preview – Ireland vs Sri Lanka, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021/22, 8th Match, First Round Group A
On top of all these reasons for Sri Lanka to be wary, here’s another: Ireland are coached by Graham Ford, who had been Sri Lanka’s coach until mid-2017. Though, such has been the rate of turnover in Sri Lanka’s limited-overs teams, the only players in this current squad Ford would have worked with extensively are the likes of Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Kumara, and Dushmantha Chameera (who has grown into a much better bowler since then).
Bowled ‘im! FOUR IN FOUR! Campher has done a Malinga
Completed matches, most recent first
Sri Lanka WLLLW
In the spotlight
Pitch and conditions
Temperatures are expected to hover around the low 30-degrees Celsius range again. No rain is expected, but there has been dew on the ground, particularly in the second innings.
Sri Lanka’s top three have not been at their best, and there might be a temptation to throw in Charith Asalanka, who had played some good T20 innings over the past few months, but Mickey Arthur they will stick with the same top three for this match.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Dinesh Chandimal, 4 Avishka Fernando, 5 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 7 Chamika Karunaratne, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Maheesh Theekshana, 11 Lahiru Kumara
Ireland are likely to stick with the XI that took down Netherlands.
Ireland (possible): 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Kevin O’Brien, 3 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 4 Gareth Delany, 5 Curtis Campher, 6 Harry Tector, 7 Neil Rock (wk), 8 Simi Singh, 9 Mark Adair, 10 Josh Little, 11 Ben White
Stats and trivia
“Chandi is a little short of confidence at the moment. We had a practice match among ourselves before we came over, when he hit 84 off 48. He’s a fine batsman. We haven’t got a particularly experienced top five, and the thing that gets him in there is his experience. We’ll give Chandi another run. I’m comfortable that Chandi is in there, and I’m comfortable Chandi is one innings from showing us what he can do.”
Mickey Arthur expects the senior batter to come good.
“Gareth’s peaking at the right time. He played a brilliant innings against Bangladesh, and he took his form into the match against Netherlands. He’s doing exactly what we want from him – he’s taking the attack to the bowlers.”
Andy Balbirnie wants the in-form batter to carry on the good work.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
T20 World Cup – KL Rahul
Says experience of playing one-and-a-half seasons of the IPL in the UAE “put me in good stead” for the T20 World Cup
“The bubble is really hard. It was all okay when it started with the IPL in 2020. We came out of five months of no cricket so we were excited to just play cricket. But the bio bubbles have been going on for so long that it is really hard”
Dhoni has often been described as an emotion by the observers and fans of the game, an emotion that binds everyone and above all, the Indian dressing room.
Rahul endorsed this view, describing him as the man everyone looks up to. “We loved having him in the dressing room when he was the captain. We loved the calmness. We have all looked up to him to help us out, to have him here is amazing,” he said. “This gives us a sense of calmness, I have enjoyed spending time with him in the first two to three days and it has been a lot of fun. Looking forward to chewing his brain about cricket, captaincy and all things cricket.”
Dhoni recently led Chennai Super Kings to a fourth IPL title and there is a chance that he will play one last time in front of the Super Kings’ home crowd at Chepauk in 2022. “None of us are sure that IPL 2021 final was his last game,” Rahul said.
Rahul feels that despite being on the other side of 40, the former skipper can hit the farthest sixes, beating some of the more muscular youngsters.
“I think Dhoni can give any of us stiff competition, he definitely is a guy who can hit the ball farthest, he is very strong and he is good (while running) between the wickets. He looks the fittest, it is good fun to have him,” Rahul said.
Rahul has been one of the most consistent T20 performers for India, with astounding returns of 659, 593, 670 and 626 runs in the last four editions of IPL. And the fact that the last one-and-a-half editions of the IPL have been played in the UAE makes him confident of a good show from himself and the team.
“Playing consistently has helped me. The six-seven IPL games have helped us adapt to the conditions. The experience of playing in UAE last year helped me know what shots to play and will put me in good stead in preparing for the upcoming World Cup,” he said.
But life in biobubbles has been taking its toll, he conceded.
Rahul, like most of the senior players, has been in biobubbles since June, and it is also the seventh confined environment he has been in starting with the IPL 2020, followed by the Australia tour (till he left due to injury), the England home series, the first half of the IPL in India, the World Test Championship, the Test series in England, the second half of IPL, and the T20 World Cup.
“The bubble is really hard. It was all okay when it started with the IPL in 2020. We came out of five months of no cricket so we were excited to just play cricket. But the bio bubbles have been going on for so long that it is really hard,” he said.
However, the positive side of bubble, according to him, is getting to know team-mates better as there is very little in-person interaction with outside world.
“The bubbles have gotten the team a lot closer because we spend a lot of time together and can’t interact with others. We try to do what best we can in the bubble. I am hanging out with Hardik’s son mostly; I love kids and love playing with kids.”
T20 World Cup 2021 – Could England captain Eoin Morgan drop himself? ‘It’s always an option’
Morgan says Liam Livingstone is “fully fit” after injuring his finger during the warm-up match
“It’s always something I’ve said – it’s always an option,” Morgan said of the possibility of leaving himself out of the XI. “I’m not going to stand in the way of a team winning the World Cup. I’ve been short of runs but my captaincy has been pretty good, as it goes. So, yes is the answer.
“Not being a bowler and being a bit older and not contributing as much in the field, I’ve loved the role of captain. You get two bites at the cherry impacting the game. As regards my batting, I wouldn’t be standing here if I hadn’t come out of every bad run of form that I’d ever had. The nature of T20 cricket and where I bat means I always have to take quite high-risk options and I’ve come to terms with that. It’s just something you deal with, it’s the nature of the job so I’m going to continue taking those risks if the team dictates they need them.”
“I think it’ll be unbelievably special if we manage to do it,” Morgan said. “I think that the group of players that we’ve had together for the last five or six years, alongside some new, really talented and young guys coming through, who have really made a name for themselves, makes the composition of the squad extremely strong. Obviously playing away from home creates challenges, and for the first time since 2016 we’re going into a world tournament where we haven’t been favourites. So again, there are some challenges, but challenges that we’ve overcome in bilateral series on previous occasions, and challenges that we’re really looking forward to.
“We’re always trying to push the limits, we’re always trying to get better as a side, and since 2019 our cricket has been as consistent as ever, I think, in the T20 format which is extremely difficult to do when there’s been chopping and changing the whole time. And I think with the opportunity of not only this World Cup but next year’s as well, there’s a real chance of being contenders.”
Morgan also suggested that the slightly expanded Super 12s format, with the top two in each group of six progressing to the semi-finals, would give the best teams a greater chance, by lessening any “banana skin potential” before finding their stride.
“I think with the new format and the larger group as your first challenge throughout the tournament, I suppose you don’t have to be coming into the tournament as you think you might do in previous years, when one game might cost you qualifying,” he said.
“With more games it allows you to establish some form as a side and almost gather momentum into the tournament. Whereas I think in previous years, the tournaments that I’ve played – 2009 getting out of the group stage was extremely difficult, 2010 when we won was unbelievably difficult, likewise 2016 when we got to the final, we scraped through the group stages, and the two in between we were bundled out in the group stages. So I think there’s a little bit more leeway with this new format.”
England are set to wait until they see the surface that awaits them for their Group 1 opener in Dubai on Saturday before deciding on the make-up of their side, following Morgan’s experience at the same venues with Knight Riders during the IPL. He did confirm that England would be taking a knee alongside West Indies before the game, and were in discussions about the possibility of other gestures during the tournament.
“Going on from there, we’ve been speaking to the ICC about the potential moment of unity before the game, that we’ve been doing as part of our own piece at home. It hasn’t been cleared up yet whether that’s a possibility.”
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
Match Preview – Ireland vs Sri Lanka, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021/22, 8th Match, First Round Group A
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