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March 6, 2009
Sri Lanka are pretty certain of making it to the Super Six for they just need a win over Pakistan to get there. But what next? A fifth or sixth place will promptly send them to the World Cup qualifiers in 2011. Making it to the top four certainly won't be easy, but it's the only way to lose the minnows tag, which their recent performances will show they don't deserve.
However, Sri Lanka have not played outside the subcontinent since the previous World Cup and more importantly will also be on their first visit to Australia. Captain Shashikala Siriwardene has said her side could be the "surprise package" of the tournament and she isn't far off the mark. While Sri Lanka failed to beat India in the Asia Cup in May last year, they beat West Indies in an exciting 3-2 home series the following October.
They come to Australia having won a tri-series in Bangladesh, which included the hosts and Pakistan, and while the victory may not give them confidence for the World Cup, it will give them an edge over teams who enter the tournament without match practice. They have a strong batting line-up led by opener Dedunu Silva. Their bowling is anchored by spinners Suwini de Alwis, who took 21 wickets in the Asia Cup and against West Indies, and Siriwardene, who took 19 in the same period. They also have useful medium-pacers in Chamari Polgampola and Chandi Wickramasinghe.
Know your competition
India have rarely missed the opportunity to thrash Sri Lanka, especially in Asia Cup games. Their lowest margin of victory has been by 29 runs; de Alwis and Siriwardene took three each to hold them down to 227, after which Dedunu scored 74 off 87 balls but received no support from the others. Siriwardene knows that to make it to the next World Cup, Sri Lanka have a better chance of winning two group matches rather than fighting teams on momentum in the Super Six.
England last played Sri Lanka in 2005 on their visit to the country and won both the ODIs by big margins. In their current form they will be virtually impossible to be halted on their way to the World Cup final.
Pakistan is a team Sri Lanka have never lost to and will hold a psychological advantage following their comfortable six-wicket win in the tri-series final.
Stars of 2009
Indian batsman Mithali Raj has predicted the Australian wickets will be slower than they were during India's visit in November. With the season coming to a close, the pitches would definitely have flattened and lost some of their zip. Left-arm spinner Suwini de Alwis will be looking forward to turning her arm over on such tracks which may offer turn.
Shashikala Siriwardene will add pressure on the batsmen with her offbreaks. It should be interesting to watch the two bowl in tandem.
Squad Shashikala Siriwardene (wk), Suwini de Alwis, Chamari Polgampola, Dilani Manodara (wk), Hiruka Fernando, Rose Fernando, Inoka Galagedara, Gayathri Kariyawasam, Eshani Kaushalya, Udeshika Prabodhani, Deepika Rasangika, Chamai Seneviratna, Dedunu Silva, Sripali Weerakkody.
Group fixturesMarch 7 - England v Sri Lanka, Manuka Oval
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