Wounded Sri Lanka take on confident Nepal to stay alive

Sri Lanka

Match details

Nepal vs Sri Lanka
Lauderhill, Florida, 7:30pm local time

Big picture: Nepal’s best chance of beating Sri Lanka

So, you’re saying there’s a chance? That will be the essence of Sri Lanka’s thinking from here on as they seek to keep alive their dwindling hopes of Super Eight qualification in the T20 World Cup 2024.

After two defeats in two – to South Africa and Bangladesh – the former world champions are now firmly in must-win territory. As things stand, nothing but outright victories against Nepal and Netherlands will suffice, and even then, Sri Lanka will need at least one (ideally both) of those sides to beat Bangladesh. It’s an unlikely scenario certainly, but one an entire nation will be aiming to manifest into existence.

Going in their favour will be the fact that the drop-in pitches, and the inherent unpredictability they bring, are now firmly in the rearview mirror. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s batters, like those of several other sides, have struggled to deal with some of the undercooked surfaces on offer in New York and Dallas, and will no doubt see the scarcely-utilised but relatively more seasoned tracks in Lauderhill as a welcome change.

In fact, Sri Lanka will go in with a wealth of information by comparison, having played both their warm-up games there. They will also be able to gather info from the India-West Indies series held there late last year, while it’s a neat fact that Sri Lanka themselves were among the first teams to play in Lauderhill all the way back in 2010.

As such their only real worry might be factors well beyond their control as their tournament fate might well be at the hands of the weather gods, with rain a mainstay in Florida as of late – a washed-out match and the subsequent shared points will almost extinguish any lingering hopes of qualification.

As for Nepal, qualification to the next round was always a fanciful notion, especially having been pitted in a dreaded group of death. Such was their plight, their opening game against Netherlands was already one they could ill afford to lose and following that result they were left needing to beat at least two of Sri Lanka, South Africa or Bangladesh to be in with a shot at qualification.

They now come against an opponent they have never faced, and one that possesses a bowling attack with the sort of variety that is tough to prepare for at the best of times. That said, this is a Sri Lankan outfit that is out of sorts in terms of their batting, and on the biggest stage you will rarely be presented with a more opportune moment of grabbing a historic upset.

Form guide

Nepal LLLWW (Last five completed matches; most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLWLW

In the spotlight: Karan KC and Nuwan Thushara

Sandeep Lamichhane is no doubt a massive miss, and someone whose absence hindered Nepal significantly in their opening game loss to the Netherlands as well. But in the experienced Karan KC – their second-highest T20I wicket taker – they have someone that can pose questions to Sri Lanka’s top order, and potentially expose their soft underbelly. Karan, to be fair, hasn’t been at his wicket-taking best in recent times but he has a pedigree for grabbing hauls and Nepal will be hoping the next one is just around the corner.

While Sri Lanka’s struggles are well documented across their opening two games, one area in which they’ve excelled with is the ball. That has been primarily down to their success in the powerplay, where the slingy Nuwan Thushara has proved a handful for opposition batters. With his ability to swing the ball late and his unusual trajectory, he nearly single-handedly stole a win against Bangladesh. Nepal’s batters will have no doubt done their homework but facing him will be a whole new proposition.

Team news

There’s been a fair bit of rain in Lauderhill, which means potentially some moisture in the surface. It would be unsurprising then for Nepal to stick with their seam-heavy combination.

Nepal (probable XI): 1 Kushal Bhurtel, 2 Aasif Sheikh (wk), 3 Anil Sah, 4 Kushal Malla, 5 Rohit Paudel (capt), 6 Dipendra Singh Airee, 7 Gulsan Jha, 8 Sompal Kami, 9 Karan KC, 10 Abinash Bohara 11 Sagar Dhakal

The potentially seam friendly conditions in Florida could see Sri Lanka opt to bring in a third frontline seamer in either Dushmantha Chameera or Dilshan Madushanka – neither of whom has featured in the competition yet – in place of Maheesh Theekshana.

Sri Lanka (probable XI): 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Kusal Mendis (wk), 3 Kamindu Mendis, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga (capt), 9 Maheesh Theekshana/Dilshan Madushanka, 10 Matheesha Pathirana, 11 Nuwan Thushara

Pitch and conditions

Sri Lanka’s warm up games in Lauderhill saw runs and all indications currently are that the pitch for this game will assist the batters. Rain, however, is set to play spoilsport with Sri Lanka already having had a training session on Monday curtailed by the inclement weather. Tuesday’s forecast is not any better with thunderstorms expected throughout the evening, so this could be fairly stop-start affair.

Stats and trivia

  • Nuwan Thushara’s strike rate of a wicket every 9.4 deliveries is the best of any bowler from a Full Member nation to have taken at least 10 wickets in T20Is since January 2023
  • Eleven of the 15 completed matches in Lauderhill have been won by the side batting first
  • The average score in Lauderhill is 160. The average first innings score is 168.

Quotes

“I think the gap is very good, especially to prepare ourselves, especially after we lost against Netherlands. We have utilised three, four net sessions here and we are very well prepared for tomorrow’s game.”
Nepal captain Rohit Paudel feels his team is recharged after their weeklong break.

“I think the morale is there, the spirit is there. It’s just one missed opportunity. Otherwise, if you want to judge anyone, how they feel, just see them how they bowl and how they field.”
Sri Lanka fast bowling coach Aqib Javed is not worried about the team’s morale despite two early defeats.

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