Sri Lanka have announced their 16-member squad for the three-match T20I series against Afghanistan, which will begin on Saturday, February 17, at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Wanindu Hasaranga, the leg-spinning all-rounder, will captain the side for the second time in his career, after leading them to a 2-1 victory over Zimbabwe at home last month.
Sri Lanka aim for clean sweep in all formats
Sri Lanka have been dominant in the ongoing tour of Afghanistan, winning the one-off Test by 10 wickets and the ODI series 2-0. They will look to complete an all-format series sweep on the visitors, who are ranked higher than them in the ICC T20I rankings. Sri Lanka are currently placed ninth, while Afghanistan are seventh.
Sri Lanka have a balanced squad, with experienced players like Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews, and Dhananjaya de Silva providing stability to the batting line-up. They also have some exciting young talents, such as Pathum Nissanka, who scored a record-breaking 210 not out in the first ODI, and Charith Asalanka, who made his maiden ODI century in the second ODI.
Spinners to play a key role in spin-friendly conditions
Sri Lanka have a strong spin-bowling department, with Hasaranga leading the way. He is the number one ranked T20I bowler in the world, and has taken 36 wickets in 21 matches at an average of 12.86 and an economy rate of 5.59. He will be supported by Akila Dananjaya, who has 59 wickets in 39 matches, and Maheesh Theekshana, the 18-year-old mystery spinner who made his debut in the Test match.
Afghanistan will also rely on their spinners, who have been their main weapon in the shortest format. However, they will be without their star spinner and captain Rashid Khan, who is recovering from a lower-back surgery. In his absence, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Qais Ahmad, and Naveen-ul-Haq will have to shoulder the responsibility of taking wickets and containing runs.
Afghanistan look to bounce back from disappointing performances
Afghanistan have had a tough time in Sri Lanka, losing both the Test and the ODI series by big margins. They have failed to cope with the spin-friendly conditions, and have been bowled out for low scores in three out of four innings. Their batting has been dependent on Rahmat Shah, who scored a century in the Test match, and Asghar Afghan, who made a fifty in the second ODI.
Afghanistan will hope to put up a better show in the T20Is, which is their preferred format. They have won 13 out of their last 15 T20Is, and have some explosive hitters like Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, and Gulbadin Naib. They will also be boosted by the return of Mohammad Shahzad, the wicketkeeper-batsman who has scored 1936 runs in 65 T20Is, the most by any Afghan player.
Schedule and squad details
The T20I series will be played at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, which has hosted 35 T20Is so far. The average first innings score at this venue is 155, and the highest successful chase is 178. The pitch is expected to be slow and low, and assist the spinners.
The first T20I will be played on Saturday, February 17, followed by the second T20I on Monday, February 19, and the third T20I on Wednesday, February 21. All the matches will start at 7:00 PM local time (1:30 PM GMT).
Here are the squads for both the teams:
Sri Lanka: Wanindu Hasaranga ©, Charith Asalanka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kamindu Mendis, Maheesh Theekshana, Akila Dananjaya, Matheesha Pathirana, Dilshan Madushanka, Nuwan Thushara, Dushmantha Chameera*, Binura Fernando*
Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan ©, Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Usman Ghani, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan*, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Qais Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Hamid Hassan, Fareed Ahmad, Shapoor Zadran, Azmatullah Omarzai
*Note: Dushmantha Chameera will not play in the series and Binura Fernando is his replacement. Rashid Khan is unavailable for the series due to injury.