Before the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 begun, Sri Lanka might have been frustrated at having to come through the First Round but now they’ve reached the Super 12s in style, they may just have an advantage over their rivals.
Warm-up games are a great arena in which to work on your skills but nothing can replicate the intensity of tournament competition and the Lions are now finely-tuned after topping Group A.
They have grown into the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup with each passing game – a seven-wicket win over Namibia to begin things followed by a 70-run victory against Ireland and then the pièce de résistance of an eight-wicket triumph over Netherlands in just 17.1 overs.
Three matches, three victories and an incredible net run-rate of 3.754 speaks to the form the Lions are in and when their Super 12s campaign begins against Bangladesh in Sharjah on Sunday, they will be brimming with confidence.
Group 1 features a mouth-watering collection of teams, with 2016 finalists West Indies and England, the fifth-placed team in the MRF Tyres Men's T20I Team Rankings South Africa and the always-dangerous Australia also lying in wait.
Only two of the six will reach the semi-finals but having laid down a marker already, their opponents will be aware that Sri Lanka mean business.
Their bowling attack is among the very best in the entire tournament – as pace trio Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have caused havoc during the First Round.
Kumara and Chameera’s ability to consistently bowl above 140kph will hurry any batter, while Karunaratne’s precise line-and-length has flummoxed the opposition so far.
The combination of Wanindu Hasaranga and 21-year-old mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana have also brilliantly continued Sri Lanka’s great spin tradition with 14 wickets between them in the three matches to date.
The Lions’ fielding has also been point, as demonstrated by skipper Dasun Shanaka’s brilliant run out of Max O’Dowd in the very first over against the Netherlands.
Their batting, most notably from the top order, has been a slight issue and replacing Dinesh Chandimal at number three with Charith Asalanka against the Dutch did little to solve it – Asalanka looking unconvincing in his knock of six from ten balls.
But Kusal Perera finally found some form with an unbeaten 33 from 24 deliveries, while Pathum Nissanka scored 61 against Ireland and middle order batters Avishka Fernando, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Hasaranga have also made telling contributions at times during the tournament.
They may not be perfect just yet but Mickey Arthur’s team are right in form and are ready to hit the ground running now we’ve reached the Super 12s.