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27 January 201621:17 By Manoj Narayan, Sylhet

No room for complacency as Sri Lanka U19 aims to top table

Asalanka's team has the edge, but should be wary after Canada's win against Ireland in the warm-ups

No room for complacency as Sri Lanka U19 aims to top table
 - Cricket News

The Sri Lanka U-19 team pose for a photograph.

Sri Lanka has taken good care to ensure that its preparation would be thorough in pursuit of a maiden trophy in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016. It started way back in October 2014, when it beat Australia by a 6-1 margin at home. There was a 2-3 loss to Bangladesh in January thereafter, a 3-0 victory over Pakistan at home and a loss to India in the final of a tri-series that also involved England. It has had matches aplenty under its belt, and enough time to settle on a combination.

However, its tournament gets going at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Thursday (January 28) in what can very likely be a banana peel against Canada, who are all set to make its fifth appearance in the tournament since its maiden one in 2002.

Canada secured its place in the tournament proper after seeing off USA and Bermuda to finish undefeated in the ICC Americas U19 Division. It was since slotted into a group also comprising Afghanistan and Pakistan apart from Sri Lanka – making it the veritable group of death – but despite the difficulties, Abraash Khan, the captain and sole survivor from the side that finished 15th in the 2014 edition, insisted, ahead of the event, that it wasn't in Bangladesh to make up the numbers.

His team backed the claims during the warm-ups. It was pummelled by India in its first outing, but against Ireland in Savar on Monday, it secured a comprehensive, four-wicket win. Kurt Ramdath, the left-arm spinner, returned 5 for 24 to help bundle out Ireland for 197 before Abraash led from the front, scoring a 98-ball unbeaten 93 to shepherd the chase.

With everything it has achieved in international cricket, Ireland is held in high regard amongst the Associates, and a victory against it would have buoyed Canada a great deal. The confidence gained might very well make it the slippery floor Sri Lanka need to be wary of.

Sri Lanka – one of the four sides in the tournament to go in without players with past experience – itself had decent results in the warm-ups. It won both its matches, the second of which was a 65-run triumph against Nepal. But it will draw more encouragement from its first outing, when it had seen off the significant challenge of New Zealand. It first restricted New Zealand to 204 for 8, and despite being reduced to 25 for 2 and later 99 for 4, its batsmen, led by Shammu Ashan’s unbeaten 66, dug in to secure a four-wicket victory.

If there is an issue to be picked at with Sri Lanka, it is its batting. In both warm-up matches, its batsmen tended to embark on a slide and lose wickets in quick succession once a partnership was broken. It lost wickets regularly against Nepal, and it was again down to Ashan, who scored an unbeaten 81, to help it post 230 for 9. Thereafter, the Nepal batsmen were snuffed out for 165 in 42.1 overs to secure victory. It remains to be seen whether the issue has been sorted since.

Charith Asalanka, the Sri Lanka captain, stated ahead of the tournament that his team’s first priority was to finish at the top of Group B. That is the least that is expected of Sri Lanka. Its final game of the group will be a nail-biter against Pakistan, but it would prefer not to let its fate in the group go down to the wire. It is, therefore, imperative for Sri Lanka to avoid slip-ups against Canada and Afghanistan.

That said, part of the charm of the U-19 World Cup is that there is a lot of mystery about. Squads are filled with relative unknowns brimming with potential, so much that even competing teams have little clue as to what to expect from their opposition, making the likelihood of an upset that much higher.

Sri Lanka will hope that is not the case on Thursday.

Teams (from)
Sri Lanka: Charith Asalanka (capt), Sammu Ashan, Kaveen Bandara, Jehan Daniel, Avishka Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Kamindu Mendis, Charana Nanayakkara, Thilan Nimesh, Vishard Randika, Lahiru Samarakoon, Damitha Silva.

Canada: Abraash Khan (capt), Bhavindu Adhihetty, Thursaanth Anantharajah, Akash Gill, Abdul Haseeb, Wijayaraj, Suliman Khan, Arslan Khan, Mamik Luthra, Miraj Patel, Shlok Patel, Kurt Ramdath, Sarbot Sivia, Harsh Thaker, Amish Taploo, Prushoth.