The Afghanistan men’s side are going to the big show, but Sri Lanka are yet to qualify.
It is a testament to Afghanistan’s rise – despite major challenges – and to Sri Lanka’s ODI collapse, that they meet in Hambantota as evenly-matched outfits. For Afghanistan, this is their first serious preparation for the World Cup in October-November. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, must get their one-day game in gear ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, starting later this month.
Here are some things to look out for in this three-match series.
Will Afghanistan be rusty?
How will the spinners fare?
Spinners will, however, have to contend with the furious crosswind that tends to blow in Hambantota. Usually, this means they tempt the batters to play their big shots into the wind.
Is Pathirana ready for internationals?
However, such is the hype around him at present that Sri Lanka may want to try him out. But is he ready for this format? And in matches where there is no Impact Player substitution – like it was in IPL – can he reliably deliver new-ball overs?
Can both teams finish their batting innings better?
Since 2021, Sri Lanka have scored at a run rate of only 6.97 in the last ten overs of an ODI innings. A whopping 39% of the deliveries they have faced in that portion have been dot balls. Clearly, there is a lack of firepower lower down in the middle order, with Dasun Shanaka only sporadically effective, and the likes of Chamika Karunaratne and Hasaranga possessing limited hitting ability.
Perhaps the thinking with bringing Dimuth Karunaratne back is that Sri Lanka will conserve wickets through the innings better, and have the likes of Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva or even Charith Asalanka at the crease towards the close.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, have been only slightly better in the last ten since 2021. They have scored at 7.18, with almost 39% of deliveries faced also being dots. Rashid has been their standout finisher in that time.