West Indies may have posed a good challenge to Sri Lanka in two of the three recently-concluded One-Day Internationals. However, the hosts turned out to be quite feisty in conditions they call home and managed to whitewash the visitors 3-0 to finish on a high. Barring the second ODI that Sri Lanka won by 161 runs, the margin of the other two being of one wicket and six runs show how close West Indies were, but they couldn't finish the job.
Despite the upcoming T20I series being just a two-game affair starting on Wednesday (March 4), and in a format that West Indies themselves fancy, they will want to get the job done this time and build their side gradually for the impending World Cup later in the year. And with personnel coming in, especially the likes of Andre Russell, they would want to give their star all-rounder enough game-time ahead of the big tournament, who is making a return after having last played a T20I way back in August 2018.
Sri Lanka's top order was consistent throughout the ODI series and they will want to replicate that in the shortest format. Since 2009, the two sides have gone up against each other nine times in T20Is with Sri Lanka winning six of those clashes. The sides, however, are level in Sri Lanka with both having won two each. Since the 2019 World Cup, West Indies have lost 8 of their 11 played T20Is, and Sri Lanka themselves are coming from a whitewash at the hands of India in the same format. In a clash of almost-equals in that context, whether the confidence from the ODI win will boost Sri Lanka or if the switch in format will work for West Indies in their favoured format is something to look out for.
What to expect: Only two T20Is are being played in the series. While the forecast for the first T20I doesn't spell of chances of rain, although amidst overcast conditions, heavy rain is forecast for the second one on Friday. So teams will want to take a lead early on, if at all the second game gets washed out. The wicket in Kandy is usually one with a lot of runs, and with West Indies' firepower, it'll hold them in good stead, despite the consistency of the Sri Lankan line-up that also boasts of some power-hitters.
Sri Lanka: The hosts recalled Thisara Perera, Nuwan Pradeep and Shehan Jayasuriya, replacing Kasun Rajitha, Bhanuka Rajapasa and Oshada Fernando. However, Pradeep sustained a hamstring injury while bowling during the third ODI and was subsequently ruled out. Dhananjaya de Silva, in the same game, picked up a wrist injury as the duo were ruled out of the series. Asitha Fernando was named as Pradeep's replacement, but no replacement was named for de Silva. Danushka Gunathilaka continued to remain unavailable due to injury.
Squad: Lasith Malinga (c), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Mathews, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Isuru Udana, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Kahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando
West Indies: Andre Russell made his way back to the T20I side and will play his first international game since June 2019 after being ruled out of the World Cup with injury. Also making a return is Oshane Thomas after an accident. Shai Hope and Fabian Allen also return to the T20I set-up after missing out on the last series with injuries. Hetmyer, who was left out of the ODI squad for not meeting the required level of fitness, has also been included for the two-match series.
Squad: Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr, Kesrick Williams