Perhaps the dark horses for the tournament, Sri Lanka begin their campaign in the 2017 Champions Trophy against South Africa at The Oval on Saturday. Also in Group B are fellow Asian giants India and Pakistan. Even though their task appears to be quite difficult, the resilient outfit are known for lifting their game in ICC events.
Ahead of their opening clash, they have been dealt a major blow with regular skipper Angelo Mathews all but ruled out of the match. The all-rounder, who turned 30 on Friday, will participate in a fitness test on the eve of the game. However, it is highly unlikely that he will be risked at the start of the competition even if he somehow manages to convince the medical staff that he is indeed fit to take the field.
Opener Upul Tharanga should take up captaincy duties for the contest. Here is Sri Lanka’s probable playing eleven against South Africa.
Niroshan Dickwella (wk)
One of the most promising talents from the island nation, Dickwella is an explosive batsman at the top of the order. The southpaw, who dons the wicket-keeping gloves as well, got off to a couple of strong starts in the warm-up matches against Australia and New Zealand. Needless to say, the Lankans will be banking on him to get the innings off to a flier.
Upul Tharanga (c)
A veteran of 201 ODIs, Tharanga has been an enigmatic player for Sri Lanka over the course of his impressive career. When on song, he is a delight to watch as the fluent drives and languid pick-up shots offer a soothing effect. But the left-hander is also prone to spurts of inconsistency with his shakiness in the corridor of uncertainty often proving to be his undoing.
Having warmed-up with a stellar century against the Kiwis, he will be eager to start the tournament with a significant knock. It remains to be seen how he responds to the added responsibility of captaincy.