SL, WI battle to restore ODI credentials
November 1, 2015
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
Sri Lanka have had an abysmal year in ODIs. The last time they won an ODI series was against England at home, and let's be fair, that barely even counts. They lost the ODI series in New Zealand 4-2, crashed spectacularly out in the World Cup quarter-final, and have since lost to Pakistan.
But they are now up against a side that has arguably had an even worse 2015 - partly because they have barely had the chance to play any ODI. West Indies were defeated 4-1 by South Africa at the beginning of the year, memorably lost to Ireland in a World Cup campaign which also came to an end in the quarter-final, and they have not played since. During their down time, West Indies were elbowed out of the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Jason Holder's men now set out to regain something of their reputation - to prove that they can still be a force in limited-overs cricket, even if Test-match excellence is some way off. There are a few bright sparks in the side, as partially evidenced by the visitors' stirring comeback in the practice match on Thursday. In that game, Carlos Brathwaite and Andre Russell - batting at nos. 8 and 9, cracked 193 runs together off 109 balls, to propel the team beyond 300. West Indies may not yet have a side that can prevail over five days, but they still have limited-overs cricketers who can scramble oppositions.
Though West Indies' trial by spin is likely to continue on a Khettarama surface known to turn up dry on match day, they will be pleased that Rangana Herath - chief among their banes in the Tests - will not play. Instead, Sri Lanka are set to field a more fragile spin attack. Sachithra Senanayake has been a diminished bowler since remodeling his action last year, Ajantha Mendis has often been exposed by powerful hitting, and legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay is yet to play an ODI.
Sri Lanka's batting appears much sturdier than the visitors' top order, but is awash in inexperience, and as such, is hardly infallible.
(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: WLLWL
West Indies: LWLLW
In the spotlight
Lasith Malinga bowled so poorly against Pakistan, he was eventually dropped from the XI for the last match of that series. His T20 returns were no better. Having been visibly unfit since his ankle surgery last year, Malinga has lost a little of the accuracy and pace that once envenomed his bowling. He is Sri Lanka's T20 captain for now, and with a major tournament on the horizon, fans will be intrigued to learn whether Malinga can still make top orders wobble as much as his belly recently has.
Since Sunil Narine last played an international match, in August last year, he has had his action reported and tested twice by the BCCI. He has been cleared by them to bowl, after adopting a remedied action, which has not been tested at international level yet. With Marlon Samuels also facing suspicion of throwing, Narine's nous and variations will be relied upon on in Colombo.
Sri Lanka may try to shoehorn batting allrounder Shehan Jayasuriya somewhere in the top seven - most likely at No.6, pushing Milinda Siriwardana to No.7. The rest of the top order is fairly predictable. With Jayasuriya and Siriwardana both capable of providing spin, Sri Lanka may opt to include tearaway Dushmantha Chameera, to provide variety to the pace attack. Lahiru Thirimanne is expected to reclaim his place at No.3, after being dropped in the Tests. Dinesh Chandimal is suspended for the first ODI, and is likely to be replaced by Danushka Gunathilaka, meaning there could be two ODI debutants.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Danushka Gunathilaka, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Shehan Jayasuriya, 7 Milinda Siriwardana, 8 Sachithra Senanayake, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dushmantha Chameera
It has been so long since West Indies have played an ODI, their XI is much more difficult to predict. Narine looks likely to play, and Andre Fletcher looks likely to open in place of the injured Chris Gayle.
West Indies (probable): 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Andre Fletcher, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Jonathan Carter, 6 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 7 Jason Holder (capt.), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Carlos Brathwaite, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Ravi Rampaul
Pitch and conditions
Colombo has been experiencing heavy evening rains all through the past week. More of the same is expected on Sunday, which means the Duckworth-Lewis equation may be used at some point in the evening. The Premadasa surface is usually given to turn.
Stats and trivia
- West Indies have won four and lost eight matches this year.
- Marlon Samuels' ODI record in Sri Lanka is almost as poor as his Test record. He has hit 57 runs at an average of 14.25 across five innings on the island.
- Angelo Mathews needs 85 runs to reach 4000 in ODIs.
"We won't announce our team till the morning of the match, but there's a good chance we'll see some young players in the XI."
Sri Lanka vice captain Lahiru Thirimanne on the composition of their side
"Sri Lanka is ranked higher than us now. If we beat this team here now, we will gain quite a few rankins points. It's important that we keep winning games and keep boosting our points. All these restrictions and cut off points in terms of ICC tournaments is very important."
Having recently failed to qualify for the 2017 Champions Trophy, Jason Holder wants to ensure West Indies' place at the 2019 World Cup is not put at stake
*13:16 GMT - This story had incorrectly included Dinesh Chandimal in the probable XI. This has been fixed.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando