Sri Lanka will have a great opportunity to test their team combinations and acclimatize to ODI cricket in the United Kingdom ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup when they take on Scotland in two ODIs at the Grange, Edinburgh on 18th and 21st of May.
The two teams have locked horns twice in ODI cricket, with Sri Lanka claiming victory on both occasions quite convincingly. However, the hosts will take confidence from the fact that they clinched a seven-wicket win in the first of their two unofficial 50-over games in 2017. This will also be the first bilateral series between these two nations.
Many ardent fans of Associate Nations cricket have voiced their disappointment in the fact that teams such as Ireland and Scotland are shunned from playing in the upcoming 10-team Cricket World Cup. Scotland will be eyeing to prove ICC wrong once again and will start as favourites against a visiting outfit, who have not won an ODI match since October last year.
Team News: Sri Lanka
Eight years ago, when Sri Lanka played their first ever ODI against Scotland at this same venue, Dimuth Karunaratne had only played one ODI. He went onto to score 60 off 82 balls– which is his best ODI knock up to date. Now, he’s the captain of a Sri Lankan side, which is by far the least favourite team for the bookmakers at the World Cup.
Karunaratne, who has not played ODIs since the 2015 World Cup, will make his captaincy debut in the first ODI against Scotland on Saturday. Apart from shouldering the responsibility of leading the team, he will need to add some stability to the fragile Lankan top order.
Sri Lanka will be without their premier fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who has been rested after a successful IPL campaign with the Mumbai Indians. Witty Malinga defended nine runs off the last over in the final against Chennai Super Kings last Sunday and will join the team at the completion of the short Scotland trip.
For the past week, Sri Lankans have used the world-class facilities at Merchant Taylors’ School in Watford, England to fine-tune their skills and most importantly to adjust accordingly to the early summer weather.
Players such as Jeewan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Milinda Siriwardena and Jeffrey Vandersay will look to stake their claim in the final XI for the World Cup mainly since they have not played ODIs in the past 18 months.
The return of former skipper Angelo Mathews, wicket-keeper batsman Kusal Perera and fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, having successfully recovered from injuries will bolster Sri Lanka’s chances.
Sri Lanka squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Isuru Udana, Milinda Siriwardana, Avishka Fernando, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal
Team News: Scotland
For the home team, Dylan Budge has been recalled in place of injured Richard Berrington, who fractured a finger in their second clash against Afghanistan last week. After the first match was washed off due to rain, Scotland’s chances of recording a win against a World Cup participant were thwarted again by rain as the visitors scraped through to a close two-run win thanks to the D/L system.
Captain Kyle Coetzer and wicket-keeper Matthew Cross have fond memories playing against Sri Lanka as their 201-run opening stand propelled Scotland to victory two years ago. As a pair, both Coetzer and Cross have given plenty of fruitful starts for the Scots, averaging 55 at home in the past four years.
Scotland number three batsman Calum MacLeod is no doubt their best batsman as witnessed during the Afghanistan clash where he stroked a brilliant hundred. Before that, MacLeod slammed an unbeaten 140 against England in their historic win in the one-off ODI at the Grange last year. The 30-year old right-hander has three centuries to his name in his last eight ODI innings.
Fast bowler Safyan Shariff will spearhead the Scottish bowling attack, which has been the Achilles heel for Scotland Cricket throughout their ODI history.
Scotland squad: Kyle Coetzer (captain), Dylan Budge, Matthew Cross (wk), Alasdair Evans, Michael Jones, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, Gavin Main, George Munsey, Safyaan Sharif, Tom Sole, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt, Brad Wheal, Scott Cameron (cover)
Weather is expected to intervene play or at least disrupt scheduled game time with showers predicted on both match days. Meanwhile, the pitch will produce plenty of runs despite the first innings average score at the Grange in the past five years has been 261.
From Sri Lanka’s point of view, they would want to get some wins under their belt, as well as build confidence as a team before heading back to England for the mega event.