ODI series preview: Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe

It is a rare opportunity for Zimbabwe to play a five-match ODI series against a fellow full ICC member when they visit Sri Lanka.

Fittingly Sri Lanka have opted to host the first ODIs in Galle since 2000 to get the series underway.

Sri Lanka have been exceptionally poor in ODI cricket in the last 24 months with their win over India in the Champions Trophy a rare ray of hope in a dark time.

As poor as they have been there is no reason to believe they won't achieve a whitewash of their African opponents who have been in a complete shambles for years, not helped by a schedule that has exiled them into the cricketing wilderness.

Zimbabwe might smell blood in the water though with Graham Ford stepping down as coach and Lasith Malinga handed a suspended six-month ban for breach of contract.

Sri Lanka undoubtedly have the personnel to put Zimbabwe to the sword but will need to be wary of the scrappy Zimbos who are improving under new coach Heath Streak.

The hosts have opted to give opportunities to a number of fringe players like Amila Aponso, Akila Dananjaya and Dushmantha Chameera as well as handing a maiden call to 19-year-old leg-spinning allrounder Wanidu Hasaranga who has impressed in his thus far brief domestic career averaging over 45 with the bat in first-class cricket while taking 12 List A wickets at an average of 15.50.

The Zimbabwe squad has a settled feel to it with left-arm tweaker Wellington Masakadza coming into the group that is laden with spinning options.

Graeme Cremer will play a big role for the visitors as their lead spinner while the up and down form of opener Solomon Mire is a concern for Streak's men.

Angelo Mathews is back at the helm of the Sri Lanka team although it is unclear if he is fit enough to bowl, while Dinesh Chandimal has been left out after a run of poor form.

Zimbabwe have plenty of spin options but the fragility of their batting was exposed by both the Netherlands and Scotland and it is hard to see them getting one over on Sri Lanka in their own backyard.

Key Players

Niroshan Dickwella is a player who could become that x-factor man for Sri Lanka at the top of the order and this series presents him with an opportunity to rack up some serious runs and time in the middle.

Lakshan Sandakan has proven to be troublesome to batsmen in environs normally not favourable to spinners and in Sri Lanka, he could scythe through the brittle Zimbabwe batting.

Craig Ervine is the most stable of the Zimbabwe top four and his grit and determination could be what stands between his team and utter humiliation.

Cremer is a spinner that has proven he can trouble top-class batsmen and he will need to be at his best to keep Sri Lanka from running riot.

Squads

Sri Lanka squad: Angelo Mathews (captain), Upul Tharanga (vice-captain), Amila Aponso, Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya, Nuwan Pradeep, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Madushanka.

Zimbabwe squad: Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Ryan Burl, Graeme Cremer (capt), Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Peter Moor (wk) Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Donald Tiripano, Richard Ngarava, Wellington Masakadza, Malcolm Waller, Chamu Chibhabha, Tarisai Musakanda

Fixtures

Fri Jun 30 (50 ovs) 10:00 local (04:30 GMT | 06:30 SAST) 1st ODI – Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe    Galle International Stadium
Sun Jul 2 (50 ovs) 10:00 local (04:30 GMT | 06:30 SAST) 2nd ODI – Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe    Galle International Stadium
Thu Jul 6 (50 ovs) 10:00 local (04:30 GMT | 06:30 SAST) 3rd ODI – Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe    Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, Sooriyawewa, Hambantota
Sat Jul 8 (50 ovs) 10:00 local (04:30 GMT | 06:30 SAST) 4th ODI – Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe    Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, Sooriyawewa, Hambantota
Mon Jul 10 (50 ovs) 10:00 local (04:30 GMT | 06:30 SAST) 5th ODI – Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe    Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, Sooriyawewa, Hambantota

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