Sri Lanka might have to counter both the Irish and the support their fast bowlers receive from the pitch. © ICC

Sri Lanka might have to counter both the Irish and the support their fast bowlers receive from the pitch. © ICC

Group D: Ireland v Sri Lanka
Date: January 14, 2018
Venue: Cobham Oval, Whangarei

Kamindu Mendis has made the headlines ever since it was discovered that he can bowl with both his arms. So he is an offspinner, as well as a left-arm spinner. His ambidextrous qualities have once again hogged most of the spotlight around the Sri Lankan Under-19 side that’s taking part in the 2018 Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.

It is a unique quality to have, and the youngster has even proved his prowess over the years to deserve all the plaudits. But when Sri Lanka take on Ireland U-19 in their Group D opening game in Whangarei on Sunday (January 14), they will need a team effort to make a mark. Praveena Jayawickrama, the left-arm spinner, who finished second in the bowling charts of the 2017 ACC Under-19 Asia Cup, and Ashen Bandara, one of the key members in the batting lineup, will need to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the side.

Sri Lanka had lost their first warm-up game against Australia U-19 in Christchurch earlier this week before the second game (against England U-19) was washed out. Ireland too suffered a defeat in their first warm-up match against England, before losing out on some more game time due to rain during their scheduled practice match against Canada U-19 on Thursday.

Both teams reached Whangarei late on Friday afternoon, before the players from the four teams in Group D met each other at a gathering organised by the local authorities in the evening. Sri Lanka even had a three-hour outdoor training session on the eve of their match to hold them in good stead ahead of their first game in the competition.

PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR

Sri Lanka
Kamindu Mendis
Mendis has already been part of an Under-19 World Cup campaign, having made the Sri Lankan side that participated in the 2016 edition in Bangladesh. The allrounder, who bats in the middle order, will be leading the side this year, and his teammates will be hoping for him to lead them by example. In 2016, he had a mediocre outing, but having represented Sri Lanka regularly at the U-19 level since then, he has improved his skills and would be hoping to put them to good use this time around.

Ireland
Joshua Little
Little, the left-arm fast bowler, is one of the most important members of Ireland’s pace battery in their campaign. Having already made his international debut in a Twenty20 match against Hong Kong in 2016, Little is one of the guys in the side who is high on experience, and can lend a lot of advice to the rest of the unit. In the warm-up game against England, which Ireland lost by a big 125-run margin, Little returned figures of 3 for 50, and the conditions in New Zealand should continue to aid his style of bowling, which relies heavily on pace and bounce off the tracks.

MATCH CONTEXT

This is the second game of Group D, which also features Pakistan and Afghanistan. Having beaten Pakistan by five wickets in the opening game of the competition, Afghanistan have two points in the kitty. The top two teams from each group will progress to the Super League while the remaining eight teams play in the Plate Championship.

CONDITIONS

It has been a hot week in Whangarei, but the weather seems to be changing a bit since Saturday morning. The Pakistan v Afghanistan match started off under slightly overcast conditions, though the sun came back out during the second dig. The forecast predicts some rain though tomorrow, and if that’s the case, there could be some overs lost in the contest, since the drainage facility at the venue is very basic. The pitch, though, isn’t covered with much grass, has good bounce on it, and could help the faster bowlers during the contest.

SQUADS

Sri Lanka: Kamindu Mendis (capt), Jehan Daniel, Hasitha Boyagoda, Rashmika Dilshan, Krishan Arachchige (wk), Kalana Perera, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Praveen Jayawickrama, Nuwanidu Fernando, Ashen Bandara, Nipun Malinga, Nipun Dananjaya, Nishan Madushka, Hareen Buddhila, Santhush Gunathilaka

Ireland: Harry Tector (capt), Ian Anders, Aaron Cawley, Varun Chopra, Mark Donegan (wk), Jonathan Garth, Jamie Grassi, Reece Kelly, Graham Kennedy, Joshua Little, Sam Murphy, Max Neville, Neil Rock, Morgan Topping, Andrew Vincent