The Sunday Leader

Lasith Malinga Included In Lanka’s T20 Squad For Australia

Sri Lanka’s star pace bowler Lasith Malinga was included in the squad for the three T20Is in Australia to be played next week. Malinga had been sidelined owing to injury for over a year and his presence is expected to boost team morale as well as giving the Lankans a slight edge in the three-match contest.

Dinesh Chandimal, who led Sri Lanka in the last of the T20Is in South Africa, has been dropped from the squad which also features the return of a clutch of experienced players.

Allrounders Dasun Shanaka and Milinda Siriwardana, and batsmen Dilshan Munaweera and Chamara Kapugedara were also named, after being left out of the squad to South Africa. Upul Tharanga, who is currently leading Sri Lanka in the ODIs in South Africa ODIs, will lead the team in place of Angelo Mathews, who remained unavailable through injury.

Dhananjaya de Silva, Thikshila de Silva, Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal were left out of the squad. There was still no place for wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Perera or legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay.

This is the first time Malinga was picked since he withdrew from the side ahead of the 2016 World T20, citing a bone bruise in his left knee. He was originally expected to only be unavailable for about five months, but had setbacks during his recovery – most recently suffering from dengue in December. If Malinga plays in the first T20I in Melbourne, it will be his first competitive match – international or domestic – in nearly a year.

Chandimal’s omission was expected following his poor form across formats in South Africa. Sri Lanka did win the T20I series under Chandimal’s leadership, but he only contributed scores of 6 not out, 22 and 5, and made significant errors as wicketkeeper during the tour. He has a high score of 36 in his past 12 international innings – though he had been in better form before he broke his hand in a domestic match late last year.

Of those who returned to the squad, opening batsman Munaweera had been out of the team longest, having last played against Bangladesh in March 2013. In the years since, Munaweera played in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League, but had most recently been playing in Sri Lanka’s first class competition, where he struck 191 off 179 balls three weeks ago.

Siriwardana, who had some success in the Sri Lanka side before losing his place, enjoyed even better domestic form, hitting two hundreds and three fifties in his last eight innings, in addition to taking five wickets in those matches. Shanaka was among the runs and wickets as well. Kapugedara, however, was picked more on T20 reputation – he has not passed fifty in three games this first-class season.

Sri Lanka play three T20 internationals and a practice match on their tour of Australia. The first international match is scheduled for February 17.

The Squad: Upul Tharanga (capt), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Asela Gunaratna, Dilshan Munaweera, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Sachith Pathirana, Chamara Kapugedara, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Kulasekara, Isuru Udana, Dasun Shanaka, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Vikum Sanjaya

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