Colombo Kings vs Kandy Tuskers, Match 1, Hambantota

Pro tip: Only one match has been played at this venue in the last three years and it happened in February 2020, when West Indies couldn't chase Sri Lanka's 345 and lost the game by 161 runs. Expect the pitch to favour the pacers in the initial few games.

Our XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Kusal Perera (wk), Ashan Priyanjan, Kusal Mendis, Laurie Evans, Asela Gunaratne, Angelo Mathews, Andre Russell (capt), Isuru Udana, Naveen-ul Haq, Qais Ahmad

Substitutes: Nuwan Pradeep, Dilruwan Perera, Amila Aponso, Daniel Bell-Drummond

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates, so please finalise your team after the toss.

Player availability: The quarantine period has been reduced to seven days from 14 after many overseas players started pulling out of the tournament. Dale Steyn, who replaced Sohail Tanvir, is not available for Kandy Tuskers the first two games. Canada's and Colombo Kings' Ravinderpal Singh is also not available - like Tanvir, he too tested positive for Covid-19.

Captain: Andre Russell

Russell didn't have a good IPL 2020 with the bat, but he can turn things around here for Colombo Kings. If he is fit enough to bowl, he can be handy with the ball too, which makes it almost impossible to not have him as your captain. He has played ten T20Is in Sri Lanka, scoring 135 runs at a strike rate of 190.

Vice-captain: Kusal Perera

Since 2018, no one has scored more runs in T20Is for Sri Lanka than Perera. He has scored 477 runs in 16 innings at a strike rate of 138.26. The presence of some experienced campaigners in Kusal Mendis and Brendon Taylor in the Kandy Tuskers' top order means Perera can play his natural attacking game.

Hot Picks

Isuru Udana: Colombo Kings' Udana was the only Sri Lanka player who took part in IPL 2020 and that experience will surely help him in this tournament. Among the Sri Lankan pace bowlers in LPL 2020, only Thisara Perera has taken more T20 wickets than his 153 in 145 games.

Laurie Evans: In the recently concluded Vitality Blast, Evans - who'll turn out for Colombo Kings - was the top run-scorer for his side Surrey and took them to a runners-up position in the tournament. He scored 363 runs in 11 games at a strike rate of 153.16. He also has the experience of playing in other leagues such as Pakistan Super League, Bangladesh Premier League and Afghanistan Premier League.

Angelo Mathews: The only reason for not considering him as captain or vice-captain is that he has hardly played T20 cricket in the last three years. Still, he remains one of the best current players from Sri Lanka, if not the best. He will captain Colombo Kings in this tournament.

Differential Picks

Asela Gunaratne: Kandy Tuskers' Gunaratne has fallen off the radar a bit after his superlative efforts against Australia in Australia during 2017-18 T20I series. His half-century efforts in that series were widely applauded but injuries have hampered his progress. He even had a stint with the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2017. In 2019, in Sri Lanka's domestic T20 competition, he scored 160 runs and picked up three wickets in seven games.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz: Picking gloveman Gurbaz, of the Kandy Tuskers, ahead of his experienced team-mate Brendan Taylor is a tough call, but Gurbaz is likely to open the batting with Perera. Gurbaz had a fantastic Shpageeza Cricket League in Afghanistan, where he hit the most sixes for his team (12 in seven games). He also recorded a 50-ball 99 in the tournament.

Alternative scenarios

  • Daniel Bell-Drummond who top-scored in the Vitality Blast can be an alternative option for Laurie Evans depending on the playing XI.

  • Amilo Aponso had bowled well in Sri Lanka's domestic T20 tournament this year, picking up 11 wickets in eight games. He can be an alternative for Qais Ahmed.

  • You can also go with Nuwan Pradeep in place of Naveen-ul-Haq.