As Sri Lanka Cricket publicly vent their frustration at a live broadcasted press conference in Colombo over Sri Lanka’s 0-3 drubbing in the Test series, Angelo Mathews and his young charges are looking for a quick turn-around when the limited-over leg of the series starts with the first T20 at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday.
Sri Lanka play three T20 internationals against a new-look South African side lead by Farhaan Behardien after South Africa rested regular skipper Faf du Plessis before playing the hosts in five one-day internationals.
The tourists could expect much friendlier batting conditions as opposed to the Test series where green-tingled surfaces undid them, to record one of their worst defeats in many years. However Mathews is impressed with the wicket being prepared for the opener.
“There’s no grass on it,” he said smiling. “Unlike the pitches we got during the Test series, this looks a very good batting surface and that’s encouraging. We will give our best shot to win the match and the series.”
Even though South Africa have rested a number of seniors including skipper for the first two matches, it will not be a walk in the park for the battered Sri Lankans where the memories of a doomed Test series still haunts them.
Beside, Sri Lanka’s recent record in T20 internationals is discouraging as they have lost their most recent six matches since beating Afghanistan during the 2016 World T20 in India.
The team is also without the services of TM Dilshan who retired during the last Australian series, and Thisara Perera and Kusal Janith Perera — two specialist T20 players — who have been excluded for reasons best known to the selectors.
“Yes, we know that they have rested a number of senior players but still they have (David) Millier, Behardien, Imran Tahir and Wayne Parnell and also others are coming into the side having performed well in the domestic series. So we cannot understate them,” Mathews said. “We have about three T20 specialists in the side and I am confident we can pull it off.”
However, Sri Lanka also suffered another blow ahead of the opener as opener Dhanushka Gunathilaka has been ruled out of the match due to a back injury. This means Dhananjaya de Silva is expected to open batting with Niroshan Dickwella. Mathews also said hard-hitting batsman Thikshila de Silva could earn his T20 debut.
Sri Lanka team is likely to consist of de Silva, Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Seekkuge Prasanna, Asela Gunaratne, Thikshila de Silva, Nuwan Kulasekera, Suranga Lakmal and either Lakshan Sandakan or Sachith Pathirana in their bid to start the short format series with a win.
Meanwhile South Africa has not played a T20 international since defeating Sri Lanka in their last match of the World T20 campaign in March but they are confident of making a winning start to the series in front of a sellout crowd at the SuperSport Park.
Interestingly this will be the first T20 international between the two nations to be played in South Africa and also the overall seventh.
South Africa: Farhaan Behardien (captain), Theunis de Bruyn, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heino Kuhn, David Miller, Mangaliso Mosehle (wkt), Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Aaron Phangiso, Andile Phehlukwayo, Jon-Jon Smuts
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal (wkt), Dhananjaya de Silva, Thikshila de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Kusal Mendis, Sachith Pathirana, Nuwan Pradeep, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana