Next big limited-overs prize on Sri Lanka and New Zealand's radar as T20s begin

Wanindu Hasaranga won his appeal for lbw
Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st T20I, Pallekele August 31, 2019

Big Picture

With the World Cup done and the Test Championship underway, both sides now switch focus to the next big limited-overs prize: the T20 World Cup, which is set to be contested at the end of next year. As with just about everything in these teams' cricket at present, it is New Zealand who have the more stable platform upon which to build. They are resting regular captain Kane Williamson as well as pace spearhead Trent Boult for this series, and while Sri Lanka have lost eight of their last nine T20 games, the visitors have won three of their last four, including a series against India. They have in their ranks several well-heeled performers - Tim Southee, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, yes, but also the likes of opener Colin Munro, who have had success against Sri Lanka in the past.

You suspect that right now, though, both teams are more interested in their fringe cricketers than the established ones, as they attempt to identify talent ahead of next year's big event. New Zealand want to find out whether players like fast bowler Scott Kuggeleijn, and wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert can sustain decent starts to their international careers. They want to know if top-order batsman Tom Bruce or allrounder Daryl Mitchell are worth investing in. Sri Lanka, similarly, will be keen to place several of their own young cricketers on trial - legspinning allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga, and seam bowler Lahiru Madushanka both named in the squad.

Form guide

New Zealand WLWWL (completed matches, most recent first)

Sri LankaLLLLL

In the spotlight

Avishka Fernando, the aggressive 21-year-old batsman, had a breakout World Cup, hitting one of Sri Lanka's two centuries at the tournament, before also making 82 in an ODI against Bangladesh late in July. He has played three T20Is, but so far has a high score of 16. Given the talent he obviously possesses, Sri Lanka will hope he becomes a bankable batsman - something they are in short supply of - over the next year.

Few players were more exciting to watch during the World Cup than fast bowler Lockie Ferguson whose wicket haul of 21 at the event was second only to that of Mitchell Starc. He has only played five T20Is so far; in these, he has taken 10 wickets and maintained a good economy rate of 7.1. Almost certain to be the quickest bowler on show through this series, it is Ferguson that Sri Lanka's batsmen will fear most, as the bowler prepares to play his first overseas matches in the format.

Team news

Sri Lanka may toss up whether to put Kusal Mendis - who has been inconsistent across formats lately - into the XI, or whether to give that chance to a batsman coming in fresh. They have a few decisions to make on the bowling front, where they will likely have to pick between wristspinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Lakshan Sandakan.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Kusal Perera, 5 Shehan Jayasuriya, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Lasith Malinga (capt.), 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Lahiru Kumara

New Zealand are a little more settled, though they too have decisions to make regarding their attack. Which of the legspinners - Ish Sodhi or Todd Astle - will they pick?

New Zealand (possible): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Tim Seifert (wk), 4 Tom Bruce, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Todd Astle, 9 Tim Southee (capt.), 10 Seth Rance, 11 Lockie Ferguson

Pitch and conditions

The Pallekele surface generally has some pace and carry, and also has a reputation for being especially seamer-friendly under lights. At this time of year, you can never count out bad weather blowing through either.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have lost each of their three most-recent games against New Zealand, all of which had been in New Zealand. They have beaten New Zealand in their two previous games in Pallekele that yielded results, however.

  • Lasith Malinga is three wickets away from becoming the first ever bowler to 100 T20 international dismissals.

  • Colin Munro has averaged 39.66 and struck at 180 in four innings against Sri Lanka. One of those knocks was a 14-ball 50 at Eden Park - the second-fastest fifty ever.


"There are about 19 T20 matches before 2020 T20 World Cup. Whoever is captaining the team, we need to have a good, strong squad, so that we can go into that tournament with confidence. Starting with this series, I'm hoping to build a good T20 squad for Sri Lanka."
Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga

"Whenever you come to another country, you've got to respect the opposition and their conditions. Sri Lanka's got some young, talented players."
New Zealand stand-in captain Tim Southee

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