Preview: Injury-hit Sri Lanka have a stiff task on hand against in-form Ireland
Injury concerns to key players will be a big headache for Sri Lanka as they head into the Super 12 clash against Ireland on Sunday. Ace seamer Dushmantha Chameera and top-order batter Danushka Gunathilaka have been ruled out of the tournament, but that's not only it.
In-form opener Pathum Nissanka is also nursing an injury and is doubtful for this fixture with all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne stating that "he can rest, or maybe he will play", hinting that the coaching staff would take a call on the morning of the game.
Ashen Bandara is on standby to come into the side to bolster the batting, but there are more issues in the camp with pacer Pramod Madushan also sporting an injury.
Ireland, meanwhile, are on a high after smashing West Indies to sneak into the Super 12. The return to form for Paul Stirling is a big relief for Ireland as is the performance in the West Indies game by the spinners, Simi Singh and Gareth Delany.
A lot will still ride on how the bowlers can restrict Sri Lanka's key batters, Kusal Mendis and Bhanuka Rajapaksa.
Predicted Playing XIs
Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Maheesh Theekshana, Binura Fernando, Lahiru Kumara
Ireland: Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie (c), Lorcan Tucker (wk), Harry Tector, Curtis Campher, George Dockrell, Gareth Delany, Mark Adair, Simi Singh, Barry McCarthy, Josh Little
Kusal Mendis: The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batter and opener is in good form, having made four half-centuries in T20Is in 2022. With key absentees in the bowling attack, Mendis will be key to Sri Lanka putting up a good enough total on board.
Josh Little: The Ireland left-arm quick is a genuine wicket-taker and an ace bowler in the Powerplay overs. Sri Lanka's batting strength lies at the top of the order and Little would be looking to strike early to put pressure on Dasun Shanaka and the rest of the middle order.
Dream11 Fantasy Picks
Captaincy pick: Wanindu Hasaranga
The undisputed champion in the Sri Lanka XI, Hasaranga played a key role in Sri Lanka's progress to the Super 12, taking 3/8 against UAE and 3/28 against the Netherlands. He was the Player of the Match when these teams met last year in Abu Dhabi, the all-rounder returning with a match-winning 71 off 47 balls followed by a miserly four-over spell that went for just 12 runs.
Must-have: Paul Stirling
The experienced Ireland opener returned to form against West Indies and could be dangerous against the new ball, particularly with Sri Lanka missing key fast bowlers. With the aggressive approach paying dividends last match, expect Stirling to start off all guns blazing again, not that he needed any incentive for it.
Differential pick: Maheesh Theekshana
With Hasaranga hogging headlines, Theekshana has played a silent, yet very important role, restricting the scoring rate in the Powerplay. Theekshana could do some early damage upfront to dent the Irish batting line-up like he did last time around in Abu Dhabi, dismissing Stirling and finishing with figures of 3/17.
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