About the Match
Sri Lanka is about to start the home series against Zimbabwe and would be keen to get some wins under their belt before the much tougher task against India begins late in July. Zimbabwe has had some success of late albeit against associate sides and would very much want to pull off an upset or two to rekindle some interest in their cricket around the world.
If there has been one team that has consistently dismantled the lower ranked sides then it is Sri Lanka and even though they are far from the force they were in ODI’s, this series should really be a walk in the park for them.
Unfortunately, their recent inability to beat Bangladesh and the debacle that was their Champions Trophy campaign has put some extra pressure on them. The Islanders are also going to be without their head catch who has been sacked by the board and their star bowler, Lasith Malinga, has been placed under suspension for breach of contract. He will still be available for selection for the first two matches though.
The batting lineup for Sri Lanka is relatively well settled with Gunathilaka and Dickwella at the top, followed by Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, and Gunaratne. It is a lineup that should fancy getting some big scores against a weaker bowling attack than they are likely to have faced up until now in International cricket.
The bowling lineup has been stacked with spinners including Sandakan, Aponso, Dananjaya, and Hasaranga while the fast bowling duties will fall to Malinga, Chameera, and Madushanka. It is a green bowling attack with a fading superstar to lead them and could find itself under pressure as the series progresses.
It may seem strange that this Zimbabwe team is being viewed as a real threat to the Sri Lankans before the series has begun, after all, this is the same team that lost to Afghanistan at home, lost to Scotland recently and was run close by Netherlands in one of the matches as well.
However, as the crux of the team has come together under Heath Streak, Zimbabwe is realizing more of their strengths and playing a better brand of cricket. The batting order for Zimbabwe seems to be settled with Mire and Masakadza at the top, followed by a strong middle order of Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, and Sikandar Raza.
The lower middle order can also bat and contribute vital runs. This is a not a batting lineup with one major star that stands out but definitely has the potential to score runs consistently. They are also pretty adept at spin with maybe Sean Williams being the stand out player in that aspect.
Speaking of spin, this Zimbabwe team is being led by an impressive leg spinner, Graeme Cremer and would not mind a bit of spin on offer. Their seam bowling is consistent but unlikely to threaten high-class batsmen and this is something that they would like to compensate for if they are to stand any chance of pulling off an upset in this series.
Zimbabwe will also have a massive advantage in the fielding department, an area where Sri Lanka has regressed remarkably in the last few years.
Pitch and Conditions
The match is going to be played at Galle, a ground where there is always some spin on offer. It is unlikely to be anything similar to what pitches for the test matches serve up but a look at the Sri Lankan squad for the first two games is enough to indicate that there will be a complete absence of any grass on the surface.
Rain is in the air and can be expected to disrupt the proceedings on more than one occasion.
We think that Zimbabwe is going to be more of a threat later in the series as they become more acclimatized to the conditions but will be no pushovers in this match as well.
Back Sri Lanka to win but maybe wait for Zimbabwe to gain some ground and get better odds