Sri Lanka’s Danushka Gunathilaka in the nets
By Madushka Balasuriya
With the series wrapped up, New Zealand will be looking to seal just their second series clean sweep in a three-match T20I series, and their first away from home. However, they would likely have been taking things particularly easy in the build up to the game, with a spate of injuries having thinned the squad to just eleven fit and available players. With Hamish Rutherford having flown in for the out-of-commission Martin Guptill, and Ross Taylor, quite possibly still carrying an injury having little choice but to soldier on, the technical make-up of the side will remain unchanged.
For Sri Lanka the injuries will hurt a little more. Kusal Mendis, who had looked back to his best in the first two games following a push to the top of the order, will be a big loss. That said, his likely replacement Danushka Gunathilaka has also looked in good form off late, and will be eager to capitalise on a rare opportunity back in the national fold.
The other concern for the home side is the potential loss of Shehan Jayasuriya, which while on the face of it doesn’t look too damaging, it does throw off the team balance somewhat. Jayasuriya had provided Sri Lanka with middle order stability and an extra spin-bowling option. With no other spinner in the squad, Sri Lanka will be forced to go in with a possibly superfluous extra seaming option.
Injury worries aside, Sri Lanka will be keen to end a series which had begun well but tapered off on a high. They came close in the first two games, but were second-best in the crunch moments. Against a New Zealand outfit that seem to just know how to win, those defeats would have been tough but important lessons - ones that Lasith Malinga will be hoping his young charges have taken note of.
In the spotlight
At one point during the last two years, Danushka Gunathilaka was a shoo-in for both of Sri Lanka’s limited-overs squads, but a string of disciplinary issues saw him temporarily exiled from the national fold. However, recent domestic performances indicate he may be close to his best. While his chequered disciplinary record may yet take some remedying, he can certainly make the process go faster with a performance here.
Hamish Rutherford last played a T20 international for New Zealand in 2013, he last played a game for them in 2015. With New Zealand slated to play five T20Is next month in England, in many ways this is a free hit for Rutherford. Impress and you’re in contention for a spot you didn’t even know was available, fail and things just go back to as they were.
Sri Lanka will likely be without both Kusal Mendis and Shehan Jayasuriya following their collision in second game. Mendis had been one of the few Lankan batsmen to consistently have the better of New Zealand’s attack. Danushka Gunathilaka, who had impressed in the warm-up game will probably be his replacement. Fast-bowling allrounder Lahiru Madushanka meanwhile will likely pip Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara, owing to the former’s proficiency with the bat.
Sri Lanka (possible XI) 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Avishka Fernando, 4 Niroshan Dickwella, 5 Dasun Shanaka, 6 Wanindu Hasaranga, 7 Isuru Udana, 8 Lahiru Madushanka 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt), 11 Lakshan Sandakan
Both teams have been rocked by injuries, though New Zealand will probably be the happier of the two sides on that front. Ross Taylor has just about been ruled fit to play, which will be a relief to all involved after his injury replacement in the last game, Tom Bruce, picked up a knock. The loss of Guptill probably won’t be too heavily felt considering his poor returns in the series thus far.
New Zealand (possible XI) 1 Hamish Rutherford, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Tim Seifert (wk), 4 Colin de Grandhomme, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Daryl Mitchell, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Scott Kuggeleijn, 9 Seth Rance, 10 Tim Southee (capt), 11 Ish Sodhi