T20 World Cup: Namibia test first up for former champion Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, the 2014 champion, will take on Namibia in a T20 World Cup qualifier on Monday in Abu Dhabi.

Sri Lanka is coming into the T20 World Cup on the back of a 3-0 defeat against South Africa at home. - AFP

Still undergoing a difficult transition phase, former champion Sri Lanka will seek a perfect start to its T20 World Cup campaign when it clashes with Namibia in the Qualifiers in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Sri Lanka won the 2014 World T20 and since then stalwarts in Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera have all retired.

The team's rankings have plummeted as well and as a result, it finds itself in the first round of the tournament.

Sri Lanka is also dealing with year-long suspensions handed to Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka for breaching the bio-secure bubble in England. It means youngsters such as 24-year-old Charith Asalanka (the Player of the Series in its recent ODI series win over South Africa), Avishka Fernando, Kamindu Mendis, and seamer Chamika Karunaratne have to play a key role.

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The return of Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Perera will certainly ease the job of captain Dasun Shanaka.

Sri Lanka also possesses a top wrist-spinner in Wanindu Hasaranga, who has made a mark for himself as a top bowler this year. Hasaranga is also a useful batter with two fifties to his name, with a high score of 74.

Returning after 18 years

Sri Lanka's first rival Namibia is returning to the World Cup stage after 18 years, having competed in the 50-over World Cup in 2003. Skipper Gerhard Erasmus was only seven years old when Namibia last played in the World Cup, going winless across the six games.

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The team has recently done well and is expected to put up a good fight. It attained ODI status after appointing former Leicestershire coach Pierre de Bruyn and bringing former South African international Albie Morkel in as his assistant.

The Namibians also qualified for the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in the same year they attained ODI status.

Winning a do-or-die match-up against heavily-favoured Scotland, Namibia also cherished wins against Bermuda, Kenya, and Singapore. Skipper Erasmus led from the front with the bat, scoring three half-centuries. All-rounder JJ Smit struck 190 runs at a strike-rate of 168, Craig Williams and Stephen Baard providing valuable runs at the top.

Left-arm pacers Smit and Jan Frylinck did well with the new ball, while the finger-spin of Bernard Scholtz suffocated opposing players in the middle overs, with his round-arm action leading to plenty of bowled and lbw dismissals.

The inclusion of David Wiese, a former South African international, has bolstered the side.

With the addition of Wiese into the team, Smit could well move up the batting order. He is also likely to play a big part on the bowling front, given his ability to swing the new ball or push it away from right-handed players.

The teams (from)

Namibia: Gerhard Erasmus (c), Stephen Baard, Karl Birkenstock. Michau du Preez, Jan Frylinck, Zane Green, Nicol Lofie-Eaton, Bernard Scholtz, Ben Shikongo, JJ Smit, Ruben Trumpelmann, Michael van Lingen, David Wiese, Craig Williams and Pikky Ya France.

Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Janith Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya De Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Maheesh Theekshana, Akila Dananjaya, Binura Fernando.

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