Sri Lanka and the West Indies face off in the first match of their ODI series in Colombo on Saturday. The two sides enter the series in the doldrums of the world rankings, placing in eighth and ninth respectively. They both failed to qualify from the group stage of the World Cup, while their form since the end of the tournament has not been great. Sri Lanka did beat Bangladesh on home soil by a 3-0 margin last year, but they then were defeated 2-0 on their tour of Pakistan, although they were without several key players. The Lions remain in a rebuild mode and captain Dimuth Karunaratne has a major challenge in reversing the fortunes of the team to get them up the world rankings, beginning with the Windies.
The West Indies played out a thrilling series against India at the end of last year. There were signs of progress, although they lost 2-1 to Virat Kohli’s men on the road. Kieron Pollard’s side bounced backed with three strong performances to defeat Ireland on home soil in January. There’s emerging talent in the squad, but the Windies must develop the consistency that has evaded them for too long in the 50-over format.
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Sri Lanka will be boosted by the return of their senior men after they opted not to tour Pakistan amid security concerns. Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva and Karunaratne all make their comebacks. However, the Lions will be without Danushka Gunathilaka for the series after he suffered a back injury. The 28-year-old scored a brilliant hundred in a losing effort against Pakistan, and his absence will force a re-shuffle in the ranks.
Dickwella should return to the top of the order even after his disagreement with the Sri Lankan Cricket Board over an appearance in the Caribbean Premier League. The 26-year-old is one of the rising stars of the team and must be utilised correctly by his country. Avishka Fernando is another bright talent and the Windies know all about his pedigree as the 21-year-old notched his maiden ODI century against them in the World Cup last year.
Sri Lanka’s bowling ranks are not the strongest heading into the series. There is a lot of pressure on Nuwan Pradeep to use his experience to lead the attack. Other than him, playing time at the highest level is thin on the ground, although Wanindu Hasaranga has looked promising in the T20 arena.
The West Indies edged out Ireland in their last series to win only their second bilateral series in five years. It was an important victory for Pollard as he aims to stamp his authority on the team. They played out a close series with India before that, which suggests that after years of underachievement, the Windies are starting to move in the right direction.
There is talent emerging in the ranks, none more so than the impressive Shai Hope, who boasts an outstanding record in the 50-over format. Hope has been the foundation of his side’s batting performances in recent times, notching eight centuries in his 75 matches with an average of 50.81.
He will be without the support of Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer, with both players being left out of the squad due after failing fitness tests. Lewis and Hetmyer have displayed exceptional talent at international level, but the Windies have made a statement regarding the future of the team and the standards of conditioning by opting to leave them out.
Sheldon Cottrell has provided reliability in the bowling ranks. The 30-year-old has been a model of consistency with the new ball and will once again lead the attack. Alzarri Joseph is one of the most exciting players to emerge for the Windies, starring against Ireland by taking eight wickets at an average of just 12.62. He has the pace to trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Alzarri Joseph to be the West Indies’ top bowler – 3.75 Betway
Unfortunately, the weather is not looking great in Colombo on Saturday for a full game. The match should get underway in the morning without issue, although there are thunderstorms and rain forecast for the afternoon. It could force an abandonment or a reduced number of overs for the side chasing. It will be an important toss to win for the two captains.
If you take the weather forecast out of the equation, it should be a close game between two evenly matched sides. Sri Lanka have a point to prove on home soil and their returning players will aid their cause. There is a lot of talent in their batting ranks, although there are concerns over the experience and quality of their bowlers.
It will take one of their bowlers to emerge to put pressure on the Windies. The tourists seem to have a balanced side and might just have enough to claim the victory in the first match of the series, with their bowling attack giving them the edge in Colombo.
West Indies to beat Sri Lanka 1st ODI – 2.05 Dafabet
Niroshan Dickwella will be eager to prove a point at the top of the innings for Sri Lanka. He averages 61 in his two matches against the Windies. Expect him to rise to the occasion in Colombo.
Niroshan Dickwell to be Sri Lanka’s top batsman – 5.00 Dafabet
|All Rounders||Kieron Pollard
Alzarri Joseph Wanindu Hasaranga