International Cricket Council
Maheesh Theekshana is set to return from injury

Sri Lanka mystery spinner shaping for return against Australia

Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur is confident mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana will be fit to play in Thursday night’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Super 12 clash against Australia.

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Sri Lanka head into the match on a four-game winning streak, having taken out all three of their First Round matches before beating Bangladesh in their first game of the Super 12.

Theekshana was pivotal through those opening three victories, taking eight wickets at just 5.62 runs apiece with an economy of 5.00, but missed the Super 12 clash with a side injury suffered in Sri Lanka’s final First Round game.

Encouragingly for Sri Lanka, the 21-year-old is firming to return to action against Australia.

“Maheesh will be playing tomorrow if everything goes well,” Arthur said on match-eve.

“We've rested him from training yesterday. He's improved tremendously. So we'll warm him up tomorrow; and if everything goes well, he'll be playing.”

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Given Australia’s issues against the turning ball this year, succumbing to series defeats in the Caribbean and Bangladesh, the tweaker’s re-entry could be a major boon for Sri Lanka.

“He's a quality bowler,” Arthur said. “He's still young, though. He's still making his way in the game.

“He has a couple of different balls that do make you quite hesitant if you can't pick them. So, look, it will be an interesting contest tomorrow.”

Having coached Pakistan to a T20I series win over Australia in 2019 thanks largely to the efforts of the team’s spinners, Arthur is hopefully the turning ball will prove as effective tonight.

“Tactically we do study our opposition. We obviously have studied Australia.

“We had a series not so long ago when I was with Pakistan here against them where we did use spin quite successfully. So hopefully that works. If you haven't seen Maheesh, he certainly poses some questions.”

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For both sides, victory would see them move level with Group 1 table-toppers England on four points.

That would continue a marked turnaround for the Sri Lankans, who had endured a lean 2021 coming into the tournament.

For Arthur, the focus remains on the process rather than the results.

“It's just about us improving all the time. And every time we go out and play, I've applauded the players in terms of intensity, in terms of skill, in terms of execution.

“And the players have been outstanding. And we just are improving. For us, it's about our journey at the moment. It's not a sprint. Our players are getting better and better.

“The qualifiers were tough. There was a lot of pressure on us there. Now the pressure is reversed because we come into this space with not much to lose.

“We're playing good cricket. We're very dangerous. The players are very clear on what the their roles are, and we're confident we can beat anybody on our day."