Faultering Malinga gets another chance

Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne will play in Sri Lanka’s must-win third game against India today replacing suspended Upul Tharanga and injured Danushka Gunathilaka to bolster the batting front.

The third match will be played in Pallekele before teams head to Colombo for the remaining two ODIs and the one-off T20.

Chandimal, the Test skipper, was not part of the original limited-over squad but was recalled when skipper Upul Tharanga was handed a two-match suspension for team’s second slow over rate offence this year. Chandimal, a veteran of 128 ODIs, has been through a lean patch with the bat which was the main reason for his omission from limited-over squad. His return will allow the former Ananda College cricketer to regain his form and helped a Sri Lankan revival.

Gunathilaka’s unavailability means Thirimanne, who last played an ODI for Sri Lanka in January 2016, will return to the side at the top of the order.  However the selectors have decided to field the same bowling unit including seamer Lasith Malinga.

Since his return from injury, Malinga has been a pale shadow of himself. He has given away as many as 481 runs in his last ten innings picking only seven wickets at an average of 69.2— a stark contrast to his career average of 28.7 in 201 matches. Two wickets short of reaching 300 ODI career wickets, he hardly troubled the Indian batsmen during the first two matches with them collecting as many as 101 runs off 16 overs without giving away a single wicket to once a destructive bowler with a sling-arm action.

His lack of penetration was one of the main reasons for Sri Lanka’s three-wicket defeat in the second ODI. India were reeling at 131 for 7 after spinner Akila Dananjaya bamboozled the Indian batsmen to put the side within touching distance of a victory. But the lack of support from the other bowlers led by Malinga did not help them close out the game. However, he will make it the playing XI with the pitch having bit of grass on it.

With India leading the five-match series 2-0, Sri Lanka must win today to keep the series alive. Stand-in skipper Chamara Kapugedara says that they are eager to record that ‘elusive’ win.

“I don’t think we are struggling. I think there is a good atmosphere in the team. The way we played we are having lot of confident. Everyone is together and hopefully we can pull off one win,” Kapugedara who is leading the side for the first time said. Kapugedara suffered a blow to his hand during practices but will be available to lead the side as it was only a ‘minor’ injury.

If Sri Lanka are to win, they need to up their game in all three departments–particularly batting and bowling. In batting, they have got off to good starts in the series but have not converted them to big scores as wickets have fallen at regular intervals. With Akila Dananjaya almost turning the second game on its head, Sri Lanka will look for the newly wed off-spinner for a repeat but the lack of support from other bowlers is Sri Lanka’s biggest concern going into today’s crunch game.

India, who is working with an eye to the 2019 World Cup, may stick to their winning combination looking for a morale boosting series win. If they succeed, it will be their seventh successive victory against Sri Lanka and the fourth-in-a-row in Sri Lanka. India had no complaints when it comes to the squad as everyone has contributed their share to make winning a habit.

“The way we look at every game is that we take something into the next game and the remaining part of the series,” said Fielding Coach R Sridhar. “I think the way the last game shaped up, was a wonderful learning curve for us. Even before the series started, we all knew that there was going to be some experiments from us going ahead over the next 18 months. It has been a great learning. Akila Dananjaya bowled brilliantly in the last game. We take that forward, and we’ll make sure we won’t repeat the same mistakes going forward.”

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