Ind vs SL 3rd T20I


Four things Sri Lanka might have learned from their T20 February, with an eye to the World Cup

Through the course of this month, Sri Lanka have played five T20Is in Australia, and three in India. They’ve lost all but one of those matches, often going down against substantially weakened opposition. But then, they’ve had their share of injury and Covid-related absences too. Here are four things they might have learned from their T20 February, with an eye to the World Cup later this year.

They have a top three

Pathum Nissanka‘s strike rate across these eight matches was 117, but he stuck it out for 260 runs. For now, Nissanka is not necessarily a match-winning T20 opener, but in the context of a hilariously fragile Sri Lanka top order, his tenacity is useful. Plus, at age 23, there’s an element of investing for the future here.
Kusal Mendis, meanwhile, hit 100 runs in the three innings he got in Australia (he was injured for the India series), and hit a good 69* in Melbourne to top score in Sri Lanka’s only victory in this stretch.
Charith Asalanka was not quite at his best this month, but given his runs at the T20 World Cup last year, he’s hard to displace.

The likes of Danushka Gunathilaka, Janith Liyanage, and Kamil Mishara didn’t make enough of an impact to break into that top three.

Kumara could still be a good T20 bowler (just not at the death)

Lahiru Kumara played just five of the eight matches, but got nine wickets – as many as Dushmantha Chameera, who played all eight. This is a slightly unfair comparison, since Chameera bowls more often at the difficult stages of an innings – the death in particular – and Kumara has been given easier conditions. But if Kumara can be a wicket-taking threat through the early and middle overs, that’s enough, for now.

Through the course of those five matches, Kumara has often been the quickest bowler on show (across both teams), and roughed opposition batters up with his bouncers. If he stays fit, and keeps working on those skills, the quicker tracks in Australia could suit him nicely in October.

Shanaka the big-hitter emerges

No one wanted to say it. But although the T20 team was doing better under Dasun Shanaka than it had under several previous leaders, the captain’s own form had been awful. In 20 innings as captain until the first match of this India series, Shanaka had hit just 334 runs at a strike rate of 107.

Just in the last two games at Dharamsala though – one of the bounciest tracks in South Asia – Shanaka has found his range. He bashed 47 not out off 19 in the second match, then a stunning 74 not out off 38 in the third, having come in at 29 for 4.

Sri Lanka had lacked lower-order firepower in the last T20 World Cup. They need Shanaka to continue his big-hitting into October and November.

The Chandimal experiment is over. Right?

Dinesh Chandimal has played 61 T20 innings, striking at 104. Let’s not sugarcoat it. These are appalling numbers. When it comes to Chandimal, though, there always seems to be hope that he can resurrect the hyper-aggressive past version of himself, and this is what the selectors thought when he tore up the Lanka Premier League in November last year, hitting 277 runs at a strike rate of 151, as a finisher.

Sadly, he has not even come close to replicating those numbers in the seven T20I innings he got in February, making just 112 runs, at a strike rate of 97. He’s got to be done, right? No way the selectors can pick him in this format. That is until he carves up another domestic season.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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