After qualifying for the T20 World Cup in 2021, all that Sri Lanka could manage was four points, two wins. Even though they were dark horses, the perennial ones of the competition, the Islanders' performance was underwhelming. Nearly a year after, they will go into yet another ICC tournament as one of the dark horses, one that the bookies wouldn’t want to rule out.
This year, there are more reasons to back them. Dasun Shanaka’s men showed the world their attacking brand of cricket during the 2022 Asia Cup in the Middle East. While they relied on the exposure of Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Wanindu Hasaranga to help them, it was a core that could possibly redefine their status in world cricket.
Fortunes at 2021 T20 World Cup:
Finished fourth in Group 1
Eliminated in Super 12s
Top Run-scorer: Charith Asalanka – 231 runs @ 46.20 and 147.13 SR
Top Wicket-taker: Wanindu Hasaranga – 16 wickets @9.75 and 5.2 ER
What can win them the World Cup?
Since the dismal show in the global event last year, one of the much-improved aspects of Sri Lanka’s batting has been their strike-rate. During the Asia Cup, the Islanders struck at 135.7, and the return of Rajapaksa has definitely helped them in their approach of going all guns blazing. Rajapaksa will be the key for the Islanders, with his 611 runs in 2022 coming at a strike-rate of 148.3.
While they played him at No.5 during the Asia Cup, there are high chances that he could be promoted at No.3, when the openers get off to a great start. Sri Lanka’s bowling has been strengthened by the likes of Dilshan Madhushanka and Pramod Madhushan.
Madhushanaka’s potent swing combined with his angle might be a differential, with six wickets in the Asia Cup, where he impressed one and all. His T20 average (25.53), might be something that would keep the Lankan side in good stead.
A move that could work: Sri Lanka could maximize their batting by promoting their star all-rounder Hasaranga over Shanaka. It kills two birds with one stone, one that Hasaranga at No.5 averages 30 with the bat, at a strike-rate of 155.2. Shanaka’s numbers are strong at the death, where he strikes at 170.69, so using the all-rounder purely as a finisher might be a move worth considering.
What can get them eliminated?
In a fast-paced game, if you don’t strike hard in the powerplay, your chances diminish drastically. Sri Lanka’s top-order (1-3), strike at just 115.1 in 2022, an area where they are the second-worst side amongst the top ten teams. When they played in Australia earlier in the year, the top-order struggled massively, with a run-rate of 6.7 in the powerplay.
Sri Lanka’s struggle in Australia was something that all sides would have noticed. It is something that the Islanders will have to pay a strong notice. While at the Asia Cup, the strike-rates improved (123.7), it is still not good enough for them to go past some of the top teams.
Another area of concern is Sri Lankan batters against deliveries bowled at 145 kmph or more. Against the quick paced deliveries, the Lankan batters score at just 6.2 RPO with an average of 9.3, something that sides would definitely aim to target.
Predicted Playing XI
Since the elimination in the Middle East, Sri Lanka have made quite a few changes to their setup, with the inclusion of Danushka Gunathilaka and Dhananjaya de Silva, who offer plenty of support in the middle-order. If the Asia Cup was any indication, expect Sri Lanka to play a similar team from their successful event, with just the return of Dushmantha Chameera, who in all likely will replace Pramod Madhushan.
Predicted XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Dilshan Madushanka
Sri Lanka kick-off on October 16 (Sunday) against a team that surprised one and all in the 2021 edition of the tournament, Namibia.
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