Thirimanne set for middle order role
Lahiru Thirimanne, Sri Lanka vice-captain, suggested he would continue to bat in the lower middle order until the World Cup, despite having tasted his greatest successes higher up.
Thirimanne struck two centuries opening the innings in this year's Asia Cup - for which he received a Player of the Tournament award - but he has been more often seen at No. 5 or lower, as Sri Lanka seek support for Angelo Mathews towards the end of a one-day innings.
His stint as opener came to an end in England, where he was repeatedly dismissed by James Anderson, but he has since struck form with the A team and in the series against India. With Sri Lanka having had trouble finding an opening partner for Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thirimanne would seemingly have been a candidate to move back up the order, but it appears likely that he will stay at No. 6, where he has just hit two fifties on the trot.
"I think if you take my technique into account, I am most suited for batting in the top four," Thirimanne said. "But for now, I'll have to play according to what the team need, and that is in the middle order. Our top order is balanced, so my job is to strengthen the middle order when I come to bat after Angelo. I'm happy to bat wherever I'm given a spot."
Thirimanne said Sri Lanka had not finalised their XI for the first ODI, but they do have options for the opening position. Kusal Perera has been named in the squad, despite having made only four runs in three outings in India. Mahela Jayawardene has expressed a desire to open the batting as well, and may be next in line to open, should Kusal fail to convince. And the selectors have also suggested they would consider Test opener Kaushal Silva for ODIs, though Silva has not been named in the squad for the first three games.
"I don't think Mahela aiya will play as an opener in the first match, but he is always ready to bat wherever the team needs him," Thirimanne said. "Kusal Perera is there. We haven't picked the XI yet but it's likely that we'll have a left-hand/right-hand combination tomorrow."
Thilina Kandamby's recall also suggests the selectors are considering tinkering with the top order. Kandamby may be a candidate to step into the No. 4 slot if Jayawardene does eventually open the innings.
"If Kandamby plays, he will be in the middle order," Thirimanne said. "Because on the India tour, we lost a few top order wickets early. Angelo does a great job in the middle, because he's in form. We have to consider our options before the World Cup. We've got about four or five batsmen who can fill that middle-order role. Out of those, we'll probably try and figure out who our best two are, and they'll be in that World Cup side. We'll see how Kandamby goes in this series."
Sri Lanka remain without Lasith Malinga for this series, as he recovers from ankle surgery. Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad and Lahiru Gamage have been named as specialist quicks, with Suranga Lakmal also expected to be available from the fourth ODI onwards. But none of those bowlers have played 20 ODIs, with Gamage having only debuted this month.
"We feel the absence of Lasith Malinga a lot," Thirimanne said. "I think the death overs is where a bowler's maturity is most tested. The new bowlers we have are talented, but when it comes to the final few overs, they can have nerves. We've been training with that in mind in the past week though, and I'm sure the bowlers will come with a good plan."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando