Jaffna Stallions vs Galle Gladiators, Match 2, Hambantota
Pro tip: Avishka Fernando scored a scintillating 127 against West Indies in the only ODI which happened at this venue in the last three years.
Our XI: Avishka Fernando (capt), Hazratullah Zazai, Snehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shoaib Malik, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dhananjaya de Silva, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Akila Dananjaya, Mohammad Amir, Kyle Abbott
Substitutes: Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Asitha Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka
NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates, so please finalise your team after the toss.
Player availability: Shahid Afridi, who was supposed to captain the Gladiators, will miss the first two games after missing his flight. Bhanuka Rajapaksa is likely to captain the team in his place.
Captain: Avishka Fernando
Avishka Fernando made his national debut at 18, having not played any first-class or List A games. He has recorded four 40-plus scores in his last six innings in the domestic Sri Lanka T20 competition, and the last time he played in Hambantota, he scored a century in an ODI.
Vice-captain: Wanindu Hasaranga
This 23-year-old bowling allrounder has had a good start with his national team. He has picked up 16 wickets in 13 T20I’s so far. He is a wicket-taking legspinner, who can contribute with the bat lower down the order too. In the last ten domestic SL T20 competition matches, he has taken 18 wickets and has scored 199 runs.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa: Rajapaksa turned heads in his debut T20I series in Pakistan last year. He top-scored in that series with 112 runs at a strike rate of 143.59 which helped Sri Lanka defeat Pakistan 3-0. In BPL 2019-20 too, he impressed everyone with his brilliant strokeplay, scoring 188 runs in six games at a strike rate of 155.37, including an unbeaten 96.
Shoaib Malik: The Pakistan veteran has proved that he still has a lot of cricket left in him by top-scoring for his team Peshawar Zalmi in PSL 2020. He aggregated 278 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 137.62 and an average of 34.75.
Mohammad Amir: Mohammad Amir is the highest wicket taker for Khulna Tigers and Karachi Kings in the most recent BPL and PSL competitions. The left-arm seamer took six and two wickets in the qualifier 1 and final respectively for Khulna, but they finished the tournament as runners-up.
Akila Dananjaya: Akila Dananjaya might not be your big-name pick but he has surely got his form back after a poor couple of years. In the last 10 SL domestic T20 games, he has not gone wicketless and has got 21 wickets. In fact, in his last 17 T20 games, he has gone wicketless in only one game.
Shehan Jayasuriya: Snehan Jayasuriya set the 2020 SL domestic T20 tournament on fire by topping the run charts with 385 runs in eight games at an average of 48 and a strike rate of 157. He also picked up six wickets in the tournament.
Tom Moores could be a like-for-like replacement option for Shoaib Malik as the finisher for Jaffna Stallions.
Duanne Olivier or Usman Shinwari can replace Kyle Abbott if he doesn’t play.
Asitha Fernando was the most prolific seamer in the SLC T20 Tournament in 2020, picking up 14 wickets in eight games. He can be a replacement option if one of Amir or Dananjaya doesn’t play.
Eng vs SL 2021 – Jos Buttler ruled out of Sri Lanka white-ball series with calf injury
Dawid Malan added to ODI squad after MRI scans reveal small calf tear
Buttler, England’s vice-captain and wicketkeeper, scored an unbeaten 68 opening the batting in the first T20I. According to the ECB, he “felt tightness and discomfort” at the end of the game and was sent for an MRI scan on Thursday morning, which revealed a small tear. He sat out the second T20I, which England won by five wickets.
England had already suggested they may use the Sri Lanka T20Is to experiment, with Jonny Bairstow moving up to open in Buttler’s absence – although he made a three-ball duck as England initially struggled in their chase of 112. Liam Livingstone, whose unbeaten 29 helped secure victory, regularly opens in T20 cricket and could also deputise.
Dawid Malan, the No. 1-ranked T20I batter, has been added to the ODI squad, with Bairstow and Sam Billings in contention to take the gloves in the 50-over format. Billings scored his maiden ODI hundred last summer and would have been vying for a middle-order berth, regardless of Buttler’s availability.
“In terms of ODIs I had a really good summer last year and averaged 83 in that format so I would be pretty disappointed if I didn’t get a gig but this team is a very hard one to get into to,” he said.
England have already secured the T20I series ahead Saturday’s third match, at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. The teams will then play three ODIs, at Chester-le-Street, The Oval and Bristol.
ENG vs SL 2nd T20I – Mickey Arthur on England and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s head coach said he wants the batsmen to be more proactive against a world-class England attack
“Just not enough runs again,” Arthur told the BBC, when asked for his take on his side’s defeat. “We’re coming up against a really good bowling attack. They’re ranked No. 1 in the world, we’re ranked No. 9, and you can see the difference. We’ve started a journey with a young team and for us it’s about getting better, competing, learning from every game and every experience and getting better and better as we go along.
“It’s tough. We’re consistently talking about freedom, about taking the handbrake off as a batting unit. But you can only bat as well as you’re allowed to and I thought England were world-class with the lengths they hit. They put us under a lot of pressure with the bat.
“We can be more proactive and we’ve got to go back and work on that. We can walk around the crease a little bit more and try to do different things but our batters are learning all the time, particularly in these conditions. We’ve got a really exciting batting unit in our conditions but it’s about transferring those skills to conditions outside our own environment.”
“I thought we bowled really well,” he said. “Our fielding has gone up to another level. Fielding is all about attitude, it’s measurable, and I think the guys are getting better and better with that. We’re really excited with our bowling unit and we’ve got a couple of guys that are injured as well, so when we get them back we’ll be good.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
England vs Sri Lanka T20Is – Liam Livingstone makes virtue of versatility in pitch for England World Cup role | Cricket
Teams can take a squad of 33 players to cover 15 starting positions in rugby’s next World Cup, and 23 for 11 spots in football’s, but cricket diverges from the norm. England will take a 15-man squad to the T20 World Cup this winter – albeit with the possibility of a couple of reserves as a Covid precaution – and as a result, the ability of back-up players to cover a range of roles is crucial.
With that in mind, Liam Livingstone has done his chances of inclusion no harm at all in the first two games of their T20I series against Sri Lanka in Cardiff. An innings of 29 not out off 26 balls and four tight overs of liquorice-all-sort spin that have cost 19 runs do not demand retention in themselves, but have demonstrated the flexibility that Livingstone would add to a touring party as a utility player.
“It’s something that I pride myself on, being as versatile as I can,” he said after the second T20I, in which he won the match award after steering England home from No. 6. “It’s something that’s rolled into my bowling as well, trying to bowl both legspin and offspin to give people different options [and] it’s the same with my batting, trying to make myself a player who can bat all the way from No. 1 to No. 8.”
While he has made a reputation for himself as a power-hitter who deals in sixes – in last year’s Big Bash, he scored a higher percentages of his runs in sixes (39.4%) than anyone else in the top 25 run-scorers – Livingstone’s innings on Thursday night demonstrated his willingness to adapt, with a single ramped six standing out alongside a series of clips and pushes into gaps to suit the situation and build a partnership with Sam Billings. Four years on from a pair of frenetic innings in his first two T20Is, he looked a different player.
Importantly, given England’s logjam of top-three options, it also demonstrated an ability to bat in the middle order. Twenty-five of Livingstone’s last 26 innings in domestic T20 cricket for Lancashire and Perth Scorchers have come as an opener, with Jos Buttler even moving down to No. 4 in order to accommodate him at the top in this year’s T20 Blast, but there is little chance of him batting there in an England shirt.
While he will have limited opportunity to do so before the start of the World Cup, Livingstone should consider shuffling down the order for one of his clubs if he can – potentially for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred – in order to gain more experience in the role, though batting in the middle order for Peshawar Zalmi and Cape Town Blitz two winters ago meant he had something to lean back on.
“I batted at No. 4 and 5 in the PSL and in the South African T20 [MSL],” he said. “I guess that’s the reason I go away and play in these competitions: trying to get experience of batting in different roles, which has obviously helped me coming into an England side, batting in a position I’m not really used to.”
But it is with the ball that Livingstone is particularly multi-talented, as he has demonstrated in this series. He generally bowls legbreaks to right-handers and offbreaks to left-handers, and while not a prodigious turner of the ball, he gets enough spin both ways to keep batters guessing and forcing them to watch him carefully out of the hand.
“It’s certainly advantageous isn’t it?” Buttler said after Wednesday night’s game. “It’s a fantastic skill to have, to be able to bowl offspin and legspin to international standard. We will potentially see that come into the game more and more. He’s an exciting package, a great guy to have in your squad and your XI.”
Livingstone is not the finished article with the ball. Two of the three most expensive overs of his T20 career have come at crunch moments, confirming Lancashire’s exits in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the last two Blast seasons when Ravi Bopara and Dan Christian took him down, but he insisted that those experiences have been beneficial in the long run.
“[My bowling] has always been well-regarded at Lancashire,” he said. “I’ve obviously had a couple of tough moments with it over the last couple of years, but they are the moments that have made me a better bowler. It’s something I’ve worked hard on for this sort of opportunity, to push my way into a team as someone that can offer something in all three facets of the game.”
As an excellent outfielder too, Livingstone’s case for inclusion in the World Cup squad is strong: even if he is unlikely to start once Ben Stokes returns from injury, the fact he offers some overs as a second – or even third – spinner, can cover a number of batting roles and is a good option to come on as a substitute fielder mean that he has quickly become England’s Mr Versatile.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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