After a two-year hiatus, cricket will finally return to Hambantota, when Sri Lanka hosts Zimbabwe in the third of the five-match ODI series on Thursday.
The stadium was built in 2009 under former president Mahinda Rajapakse in view of the 2011 World Cup, but has hosted only a handful of matches because of its remote location and high maintenance costs.
The venue last hosted Sri Lanka vs Pakistan clash back in July 2015, but since then venue has been abandoned. Sri Lanka posted 368 for four against Pakistan and won by 165 runs.
"It's been a while since we played here. It's a beautiful stadium. It's one of the biggest stadiums in the world and we are delighted to play the three ODIs here," Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews said at the pre-match press conference.
With the series tied at 1-1 after Zimbabwe inflicted a shocking six-wickets defeat in the opener before Sri Lanka came back with a seven-wicket win in the second ODI in Galle to level the series, both teams are keen to take the lead.
Suranga Lakmal who was originally named for the last three matches, has returned home with a flu but the return of Lahiru Kumara will strengthen the fast bowling department which also includes Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera. Chamara Kapugedara also comes back to the side for the last three matches.
Sri Lanka’s biggest concern however is their fielding. Despite greater emphasis on fieldings during training, Sri Lanka has been poor in their catching, dropping as many as six catches in the first two matches.
“Sometimes when we miss catches it spreads like a virus. Pressure is something that players are used to. We do lot of work on fielding. We need to get some concentration going and we need to do that tomorrow,” Mathews commented.
Zimbabwe did well in the opener but failed to handle Sri Lanka’s spin challenge on a turning wicket in the second ODI. With the Sooriyawewa pitch likely to assist seam bowling, it will once again be a different challenge for the visitors who will now look to regroup following Sunday’s defeat.
"The wind is huge out here. That's going to be a factor. We spoke about it. It's going to be tough to hit against the wind and when bowling too. The boundary however looks like they have brought them in. We will assess the conditions again and then do the planning," Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer said.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews(c), Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Wanidu Hasaranga, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Malinga, Chamara Kapugedera and Lahiru Kumara.
Zimbabwe: Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Ryan Burl, Graeme Cremer(c), Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Donald Tiripano, Richard Ngarava, Malcolm Waller, Chamu Chibhabha, Tarisai Musakanda and Carl Mumba.