Amidst all the hype and hoopla of IPL 7, England would take on Sri Lanka in a fresh home series, and the same would begin with a T20 clash at The Oval. Being the home side would give England a slight edge, particularly since both teams haven’t played an international game in a while. But, while England would want to start afresh, putting behind the World T20 debacle, Sri Lanka would be keen to continue their golden run. Remember, before laying their hands on the World T20 title, they had lifted the Asia Cup as well.
The T20 game will give both sides the opportunity to try out fresh faces. Following a poor World T20 outing in Bangladesh, England have decided to dump Michael Lumb and Jade Dernbach. In their places come another Michael (Carberry), and left-arm pacer Harry Gurney. With not many options to play with, England might hand both of them their T20 debuts. The team will also see a new captain in Eoin Morgan. Although it is only a temporary arrangement owing to Stuart Broad’s injury, it still presents the left-hander an opportunity to make his presence felt as a leader.
For England to do well in the clash against Sri Lanka, the contributions of a couple of their players could be extremely vital. Opener Alex Hales is one name that instantly comes to mind. He was one of the team’s few bright spots during England’s poor World T20 run, scoring that brilliant hundred against Sri Lanka to overpower the eventual world champions in the league encounter. It is also important that the likes of Joe Root and Moeen Ali get among the runs. At the death, the likes of Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler and Tim Bresnan can be brutal.
For Sri Lanka, this would be their first T20 game post the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. While that is a challenge in itself, it will also give the younger players a change to stand up and make a mark. Kithuruwan Vithanage for one seems set for a T20 debut, after his dazzling knock against Sussex. The captaincy issue also looks to have sorted itself out for the moment. Lasith Malinga took over from Dinesh Chandimal midway through the World T20, and the Lankan management haven’t found any reason to change the same.
As for Chandimal, he must now look to establish himself as the team’s number one wicket-keeper batsman, with Kumar Sangakkara gone from the T20 scene. Tillakaratne Dilshan also has a chance to overcome Jayawardene’s tally of runs in T20 cricket. With big-hitters like Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews, Lanka can compete with any bowling outfit. It would indeed be a challenge for England to stop the reigning world champions of T20.
--By A Cricket Analyst