Saturday, 15 September 2018 09:05

All eyes on ‘Slinga Malinga’

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DUBAI, Friday – Past feats like having won the 50-over Asia Cup on five occasions which puts Sri Lanka on par with India won’t come into play when the 14th edition gets under way at the Dubai Sports Complex with Sri Lanka taking on Bangladesh in the curtain-raiser of the six-nation tournament.

The format is such that there is no room for a comeback once you start the tournament on the back foot. With only the top two teams out of three in a group qualifying for the next stage of the competition the Super Four, it is imperative that any team starts with a win.

In that aspect both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be determined to grab the first points before they take on newcomers to Test cricket, but no strangers to the one-day format Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka’s chances have been boosted by the return of super star fast bowler Lasith Malinga to international cricket after nearly a year.

For the 35-year-old ‘Slinga’ this will be a make or break tournament for him. Although not quite at his quickest anymore Malinga has the full backing of his head coach cum national selector Chandika Hathurusingha.

“I believe that Malinga fits into our equation for this tournament,” said Hathurusingha. “He is one of the best death bowlers in the world. In the last few matches, he has performed well and his fitness is up to the mark.”

Malinga proved that he was keen to get back into the national side by participating in the recently concluded domestic T20 league where although he was not so much amongst the wickets he was economical and proved his fitness. How well he bowls his ten overs in the fifty-over format will decide Sri Lanka’s fate in the tournament.

With off-spinner Akila Dananjaya out of the first two matches which are crucial for Sri Lanka’s progress to the next stage, the burden of responsibility will fall heavily on the shoulders of Malinga to deliver.

Dananjaya is staying back in Colombo awaiting the birth of his first child. He will be available for national duty soon afterwards.

The team’s plans have been impeded somewhat, with injuries to senior batsman Dinesh Chandimal and batting all-rounder Danushka Gunathilaka. Niroshan Dickwella and Shehan Jayasuriya have come in as their replacements.

A lot will depend on whether Upul Tharanga the most experienced ODI cricketer in the side can transform his T20 domestic batting form into the international stage. The bane of Sri Lanka in the recent ODI series against South Africa was the failure of the openers to give the side a decent start.


“We don't take any team lightly and we have focused on aspects such as the dew and wet wickets which are the swaying challenges I see,” said Hathurusingha about dealing with the conditions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where the matches will be played.

Bangladesh are a team who have made great strides in recent years. Tamim Iqbal comes into the tournament with a good recent ODI record, having scored two centuries in the recent bi-lateral series with West Indies.

With him at the top of the order, they have the capacity to make rapid starts to their innings that could hurt the opposition. After bursting onto the scene three years ago, Mustafizur Rahman is a serious threat with his array of cutters with the ball but has suffered injury problems of late. Bangladesh will hope Shakib Al Hasan can regain full fitness by the start of the series as missing his all-round ability will create a major hole in the team.

The last time the two teams met in a fifty-over ODI Sri Lanka triumphed by 79 runs to win the final of the Tri-Nation Series in Dhaka in January this year.

NEW ASIA CUP FORMAT

There will be a total of 12 matches played across the two venues in UAE, culminating in the final at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on September 28.

In the first stage, the six teams are divided into two groups, A and B, with the three teams from each group playing the others in their group once.

The top two from each group will then progress to the Super Four, where they will face all other teams once. From there, the top two teams play each other in the final.

TEAMS

SRI LANKA: Angelo Mathews (c), Amila Aponso, Dushmantha Chameera, Akila Dananjaya, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Upul Tharanga

BANGLADESH: Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Shakib Al Hasan, Liton Das, Ariful Haque, Mominul Haque, Abu Hider, Rubel Hossain, Tamim Iqbal, Nazmul Islam, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Nazmul Hossain Shanto.

(Daily News)

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