Windies expected to bounce back
Having endured a 3-0 whitewash in the ODI series, West Indies will look towards the T20I leg to end their winless tour, a format they have forged a strong reputation but haven’t been successful in recent times.
What: Sri Lanka vs. West Indies, 1st T20I
Where: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Kandy
When: Wednesday, 4 March; 7.00 p.m. local
Starting with the first T20I on Wednesday, 4 March, both teams will be led by two powerhouses of 20-over cricket – Lasith Malinga, who is the most prolific bowler in T20 cricket, will lead Sri Lanka, while West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard is set to become the first player in the world to play his 500th T20 match.
Pollard has the task of correcting West Indies’ recent T20I record – they have lost five series on the bounce, enduring losses against India (twice), England, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka.
Both teams have experience in their line-ups – for West Indies, 31-year-old Andre Russell will return to international cricket for the first time since the ICC Men’s 2019 Cricket World Cup, where he was ruled out midway due to a hamstring injury.
Sri Lanka will be banking on Avishka Fernando to continue his form from the ODI leg, where he scored a stellar 127 in the second game, following 50 in the first one. Kusal Mendis also hit form with a ton, although he might not make the cut if Malinga opts for an all-round option instead. How the top-order fares against Sheldon Cottrell, Kesrick Williams and Oshane Thomas could set the tone for the series.
West Indies have their own set of T20I firepower to pose a firm challenge – Shai Hope was in tremendous nick during the ODIs, averaging 79.33 with 238 runs in three innings, and could provide a steady edge to a line-up boasting Russell, Pollard, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, and Lendl Simmons. To counter them, Sri Lanka will be banking on Angelo Mathews, who has returned to bowling full-fledged spells in ODIs, and Perera to come good, with Isuru Udana and Lahiru Kumara lending further support to Malinga.
The last time these two teams met in the format was back in 2016, during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, where eventual champions West Indies secured a comfortable seven-wicket win, owing to Samuel Badree’s three-wicket haul and Andre Fletcher’s 64-ball 84 in a 127-run chase.
What they said
Kieron Pollard, West Indies captain: “[The ODI series] is done and dusted but what I can say is that we look forward to the T20 format. We have a couple of guys that have come back into the team, guys who’ve been around the world playing T20 cricket, now they’re back in the maroon. Hopefully, we can come out and show that type of intent and determination and try to leave Sri Lanka with something.”
Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka captain: “When you start winning matches, the bad things in our game seem to get erased, and the good things are noticeable. That’s the situation now, which I’m happy about.
The Pallekele International Stadium, which will host both the games in the series, could see some rain in the second game, with rain forecast for Friday in Kandy. It is the same ground where the teams played the third ODI, which saw a match aggregate of 608 runs.