Lasith Malinga has not played a competitive game since November © AFP
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1330 GMT)
After the 2-1 loss to India in their previous assignment, Sri Lanka have a chance to ease their way into the Asia Cup by taking on the UAE in their first match. The return of the captain Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara will give the team a major boost as they look to start gathering themselves ahead of the World T20, where they have a title to defend.
Sri Lanka have a well-balanced side for these two tournaments with an experienced batting line-up consisting of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal, Mathews and Chamara Kapugedara. The bowling attack has seaming allrounders Dasun Shanaka and Thisara Perera, spin allrounders Shehan Jayasuriya and Milinda Siriwardana, as well as experienced spinners like Herath and Sachithra Senanayake. Legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay is a newcomer and could well be a surprised package.
The game against UAE will give Sri Lanka an opportunity to figure out how they can balance their spin and seaming allrounders, with special focus on Jayasuriya and Siriwardana. There is also the question of whether Kapugedara will be able to use his vast experience in Mirpur to Sri Lanka’s advantage.
The match will be a major test for UAE as they look to continue their good form from the qualifiers where they won all three matches, against Afghanistan, Oman and Hong Kong. Some new match-winners have emerged in this tournament, which bodes well for their approach to not be just another Associate participant among the big boys of the Asia Cup. Watch out for the likes of Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Kaleem, Muhammad Usman, Mohammad Naveed and Shaiman Anwar.
Sri Lanka have historically been ruthless against the Associates, so there is danger of this game ending up as a no-contest early in the evening. That should be motivation enough for UAE to make sure they remain in the contest for a long period.
(last five completed matches)
Sri Lanka LLWLL
Watch out for
Lasith Malinga last played a T20 series against West Indies in November before injuring his knee. He is back in Sri Lanka’s leadership, and like the rest of the line-up, will slowly wade into the action. His vast experience will be a real test for UAE.
UAE will have Rohan Mustafa tackling the likes of Malinga first up. Mustafa is one of the new UAE stars who can be expected to put up a fight as they look to give a good impression of themselves against a major opponent. His offspin, too, will be handy in his side’s bid to keep Sri Lanka down to a manageable total.
The big call for Sri Lanka to make is the selection of Herath ahead of their seaming allrounders, especially given how Mirpur has been good for seam bowling in certain evenings. Sri Lanka could also be in a dilemma about Kulasekara, while Jayasuriya and Vandersay are handy spin options.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Niroshan Dikwella (wk), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Dinesh Chandimal, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Milinda Siriwardana, 6 Chamara Kapugedara, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Dushmanth Chameera, 11 Lasith Malinga (capt)
UAE are unlikely to go with Zaheer Maqsood, Fahad Tariq and Farhan Ahmed unless there is an injury among one of the players who featured against Oman and won in their last qualifying match in Fatullah.
UAE (probable): 1 Rohan Mustafa, 2 Muhammad Kaleem, 3 Mohammad Shahzad, 4 Shaiman Anwar, 5 Muhammad Usman, 6 Amjad Javed (capt), 7 Mohammad Naveed, 8 Saqlain Haider, 9 Ahmed Raza, 10 SP Patil (wk), 11 Qadeer Ahmed
Pitch and conditions
Mirpur had a green top for the Bangladesh-India encounter but it is unlikely a similar pitch will be greeting Sri Lanka and UAE. A surface devoid of grass and with slower speed can be expected. There is rain in the forecast but nothing that should threaten the game.
Stats and trivia
- This is the first encounter between Sri Lanka and UAE in T20Is, although the teams have met once each in ODIs in 2004 and 2008.
- Shaiman Anwar did not score much in the qualifiers, but he is UAE’s highest scorer in T20s.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo