Sri Lanka will enter the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 hoping for its second title success after having shared the trophy with India in 2002, but its run up to the big event hasn’t been the best, with Angelo Mathews’ side losing one of its two games against Scotland.
Pooled with India, South Africa and Pakistan, Sri Lanka will certainly have a tough task getting into the knockouts, but it will fancy its chances with a strong all-round team that has been bolstered by Lasith Malinga’s inclusion. Malinga, who last played a One-Day International in November 2015, will head the pace attack that includes Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal, as well as the all-rounder Thisara Perera, while Seekkuge Prasanna and Lakshan Sandakan will man the spin department.
The batting is a mix of youth and experience. Mathews, alongside Upul Tharanga, should lend stability to the side, while Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis and Niroshan Dickwella will add flair to the proceedings. Thisara’s role cannot be overstated. Apart from the few overs of medium pace, he will be expected to provide late impetus with the bat.
Sri Lanka has featured in every edition of the ICC Champions Trophy to date. It was the joint winner with India in the 2002 edition, when heavy rains at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo spoilt the party. Sri Lanka has also finished in the semi-finals on two occasions; the inaugural edition in 1998 and in the most recent one in 2013. It suffered group-phase exits in the 2004, 2006 and 2009 editions, while reaching the quarter-final in 2000.
Sri Lanka hasn’t had the best run in recent times. Since the start of 2016, it has played 27 ODIs, winning seven and losing 15. It was whitewashed in a five-match ODI series by South Africa in early 2017, then tied a series at home against Bangladesh 1-1, before the 1-1 result against Scotland. Sri Lanka will, however, take heart from the fact that it played those games without Mathews and Malinga.
Watch out for
Niroshan Dickwella was the top run-getter for Sri Lanka in the ODI series in South Africa. The 23-year-old has missed games because of injuries but has displayed fine skills with the bat when given a chance and is also a strong wicketkeeper.
If he brings his ‘A’ game to the table, it will be a major fillip to the Sri Lankan batting order, which has appeared a tad fragile in recent times.
Angelo Mathews (captain), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Nuwan Pradeep, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedara, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulaseka.