Champions Trophy – Sri Lanka

Captain – Angelo Mathews

Dangerman – Lasith Malinga

Lasith Malinga, who is currently enjoying a happy return to form for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL after an injury-plagued 18 months, always causes trouble on English pitches.

Whether he’s still able to bamboozle batsman as well as we’ve all seen him do time and again over the past decade remains to be seen.  But he will spearhead the Sri Lankan attack and with Group B including three Asian teams, it would appear that if Malinga can get back to his destructive best, he could well lead Sri Lanka into the latter stages of the tournament.

Still remains one of the big-name bowlers in the world, Malinga is nine wickets away from becoming the third Sri Lankan to take 300 ODI wickets, and in vastly less number of matches than those before him (Jayasuria and Vaas).

Why they’re a Threat

On their day, their batting line-up is capable of posting big scores.  Although the enormous shadow of the two greats of Sri Lankan cricket still looms large, the current crop of top order batsmen are starting to show that Jayawardene and Sangakkara’s legacy may not have been simply leaving two giant holes seemingly impossible to fill.

With skipper Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Medis and Dinesh Chandimal all in the top five, Sri Lanka offer a workman-like rather than explosive batting outfit, and depending on the weather, toughing out some low scoring victories might be the order of the day when it comes to this tournament.

Achilles’ Heel

Even if Lasith Malinga can find something resembling top form, his back up bowlers look woefully ill-equipped to contain some of the big hitting batsmen in several of the teams line-ups.   They will meet South Africa at the Oval on the first weekend of the tournament, and you can only imagine how much de Villiers and his band of merry bashers will relish taking apart the Sri Lankan first change bowlers on a flat track.  Expect fireworks.

Last Time?

After collapsing to 138 all out against New Zealand in Cardiff, Sri Lanka somehow almost won the game only for the Black Caps to sneak home by one wicket.

They then went on to beat hosts England and Australia, almost entirely down to a sensational 134 not out by Kumar Sangakarra in the first match, and a brilliant 84 not out by Mahela Jayawardene in the second.  As was their way back in the day.   India then suffocated the life out of them at a damp Cardiff in the semi-final, where they posted only 181 in 50 overs.

Look out for Chances?

Replays and mentions of Sri Lanka’s 1996 world cup victory.  No matter where they go or how much time has passed, there seems to be an endless archive of footage and romantic stories about how the unlikely heroes overcame the odds to win the world cup in 1996.  There is surely a decent game of commentary bingo available involving phrases like: ‘Jayasuria in the power play’, ‘de Silva century’, Indian fans throwing bottles’, etc., etc.

Odds

20/1 – Seventh favourites (Betfair)

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