An upbeat New Zealand will look to continue the gains from Test series in the shortest format. It is time for the three-match T20I series. Sri Lanka will host the Black Caps for the first match at Pallekele on Sunday.
Both sides will have one eye on the T20 World Cup next year. The combinations and places will be up for grabs. Expect experimentations by both teams, but take nothing away from the competitive spirit. Sri Lanka enjoy a great record at this venue (8-2), but New Zealand are no strangers of being underdogs.
Sri Lanka Preview
The Sri Lankans showed contrasting batting displays in the Test series. Especially as the series went on, there were some dodgy shots. However, the format change should bring the 20 specialists to the core. The likes of Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka and Dasun Shanak should enjoy playing with freedom.
Lasith Malinga returns to the fold as captain and should lead the battery of pacers. The conditions could suit the pacers, although the format negates their impact. It will be interesting to see if Sri Lanka field off-spinner Akila Dananjaya. He has been reported for suspect action and could continue to be rested.
New Zealand Preview
The Kiwis were clinical in their lone practice match. Colin Munro and Ross Taylor excelled with the bat. Stand-in captain Tim Southee would have been happy to watch Scott Kuggeleijn take four wickets and press his claim.
Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga troubled them with spin, but New Zealand will hope for better application from their batsmen. Ish Sodhi enjoyed some late order wickets. All in all, it was an interesting outing that gave a little peek into New Zealand’s pack of all-rounders.
Fantasy Players to Watch
Avishka Fernando has risen in stature in Sri Lanka cricket since the World Cup. The exciting youngster could look to continue with his big hitting.
Dasun Shanaka is an exciting hitter for Sri Lanka in the middle-order. Like his 11-ball 25 showed in the practice match, Shanaka is a handful with his hitting.
Colin Munro is one of the biggest names in T20 cricket. Forget all his troubles in ODIs, Munro enjoys the freedom that T20s bring.
Sri Lanka: 1 Danushka Gunathilaka 2 Kusal Perera 3 Avishka Fernando 4 Kusal Mendis 5 Niroshan Dickwella (WK) 6 Dasun Shanaka 7 Isuru Udana 8 Kasun Rajitha 9 Akila Dananjaya 10 Lasith Malinga (C) 11 Lakshan Sandakan
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill 2 Colin Munro 3 Tom Bruce 4 Ross Taylor 5 Tim Seifert (WK) 6 Colin de Grandhomme 7 Mitchell Santner 8 Scott Kuggeleijn 9 Ish Sodhi 10 Tim Southee (C) 11 Lockie Ferguson
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