Asia Cup preview: Sri Lanka

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Perennial underachievers in major International Cricket Council tournaments, the Sri Lankans will target a turnaround in the traditional by challenging the historical in Mirpur and surrounds.

<b>Captain:</b> Angelo Mathews<br><b>Coach:</b> Graham Ford<br><b>Asia Cup Best:</b> Winners – 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008

<b>Overview</b><br>Perennial underachievers in major International Cricket Council tournaments, the Sri Lankans will target a turnaround in the traditional by challenging the historical in Dhaka and surrounds this year. A three-nil whitewash of the tournament this month in similar conditions expected next month has certainly aided their campaign. A new coach in South African Grahame Ford and ongoing switch between T20I skipper Dinesh Chandimal and ODI captain Angelo Mathews, though, leaves plenty to prove.

<b>Key Batsman</b><br>The demand for a full-time partner at the top of the order for the veteran Tillkaratne Dilshan has been consistent, with the talented <b>Kusal Perera</b> the latest to attempt to pretend. Perera seems to be the real deal, with maturity in setting a target and levelheadedness in chasing one display against the Tigers and Pakistan this year. Saturday's maiden ODI century at the Shere Bangla National Stadium might prove a watershed innings.

<b>Key Bowler</b><br>Spinner <b>Ajantha Mendis</b> has lost the bulk of the mystery that marked a superb Asia Cup campaign in 2008, but remains a formidable threat to opposition short on experience and form against quality slow bowling. While India have plenty of bogeys against Mendis to undo, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – in particular – will be very threatened by his ability to find bounce when there isn't turn and spin when there isn't carry.

<b>Likely Benchwarmer</b><br>The uncapped <b>Chaturanga De Silva</b> has been named in a strong squad ahead of the stalwart Rangana Herath, but won't walk into the playing XI. If the opportunity does arrive, though, the gap between success at domestic and international level will be a large one to navigate.

<b>Cricket365's Prediction</b><br>Fourth only to Australia, South Africa and India in the ICC's ODI rankings, now is time for Sri Lanka to cement the jostling. While Afghanistan and Bangladesh should be trumped easily, India and Pakistan will prove formidable challenges, but not enough to prevent a <b>first-place finish</b>.

<b>They Said:</b> "Kusal has shown a lot of maturity. I am glad he has stepped up. He doesn't change his game, at any point. We have always told him to believe in himself and he has batted brilliantly." – captain Angelo Mathews.

<b>Squad:</b> Angelo Mathews (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Lasith Malinga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Dhammika Prasad, Suranga Lakmal, Chaturanga De Silva, Sachithra Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis, Ashan Priyanjan.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>25 February: v Pakistan, Fatullah<br>28 February: v India, Fatullah<br>3 March: v Afghanistan, Mirpur<br>6 March: v Bangladesh, Mirpur

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