Following an ODI series in which all five matches were affected by the rain, Sri Lanka and England will now attempt to squeeze in a one-off T20 that could be more splash than thrash. By the time the rain came hammering down in Colombo on Tuesday, England had suffered a painful-looking belly-flop to end their winning run; Sri Lanka will be hoping it is them handing out the towellings from here on in, with three Tests to follow next month.
Given that the third ODI in Pallekele was a 21-over affair, things might not be greatly different now the teams are officially playing T20. England have taken to opening with Jos Buttler (where he averages 62.75, at a strike rate of 158.86, from five innings) and have added yorker specialist Chris Jordan to their party; there might not be room for Joe Root, and Joe Denly could complete a remarkably long-and-winding return to England colours, but otherwise the line-up will be pretty familiar.
Sri Lanka will be led by Thisara Perera in this format, while Lasith Malinga could win his first T20I cap in over a year following a successful return in the ODIs. Perhaps the most interesting name in their squad is that of batting allrounder (and ambidextrous bowler) Kamindu Mendis. A former U-19s captain, and one among a crop of young players trying to perfect the skill of bowling with both arms, Mendis played against England in one of their warm-up games and could make his full international debut.
With the next men’s World T20 still more than two years away, there may not be many significant lessons to learn – but both teams, and an expected full house at the R Premadasa Stadium, will be hoping the weather doesn’t spoil their fun.
After his barnstorming return to form in the fifth ODI, Kusal Mendis will be champing at the bit for another crack. A 30-ball fifty, which featured several imperious blows beyond the ropes, was pretty decent practice for shifting up into T20 gear – a format in which he has already made four half-centuries this year. Sri Lanka will be hoping that their foremost young batting talent can go into next month’s Test series with confidence fully replenished.
Alex Hales was unable to capitalise on the opportunity afforded by Jonny Bairstow’s injury during the ODI series, making scores of 12 and 0, while his fielding has also come in for scrutiny – in the second Pallekele game, he managed to drop Dasun Shanaka for six. He has competition in the T20 side, too, after Jos Buttler’s successful outings at opener. Having given up first-class cricket to focus on smacking the white ball, these are the moments he needs to seize.Kusal Perera has not recovered from the quad strain he sustained during the second ODI, so Sadeera Samarawickrama has been added to the squad and will likely come into the XI. Mendis has won his first senior call-up for Sri Lanka at 20, and he could compete with Dhananjaya de Silva for a spot.