Players of Sri Lanka attend a practice session.
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
A confident Sri Lanka and rampaging Australia will look to extend their winning streak when the two former world champions face off in a T20 World Cup match in Dubai.
Australia have not laid down their hands on elusive T20 World Cup trophy but have been 50-over world champions a whopping five times – lifting the trophy in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015.
While Lanka were the T20 world champions in 2014 and have won the 50-over World Cup in 1996 under Arjuna Ranatunga jointly-hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Lanka are coming into the match on the back of four successive victories stretching from the first round. They notched up three consecutive wins to advance to the Super 12 before beating Bangladesh to make it four in a row.
Lanka, who came into the tournament as also-rans, have emerged as top contenders after a stellar performance. Their run-up in the showpiece event so far shows that they are through to their transition period, which was one of the reasons for them to be rated underdogs before the tournament.
Since the 2015 World Cup, many of their top players have retired which includes the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera.
But they seem to have overcome the transition period and are ready to take the world by storm on the biggest stage of the game.
They have a very well-balanced side which is perfect blend of batters, who can set the tone; all-rounders, who are capable of chipping in with useful contribution both with the bat and bowl and the bowlers, who can rip through the best batting line-up.
Mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana is one player in particular who has been in spotlight for his crafty spin. Coach Mickey Arthur is pinning hopes on the youngster to spring some surprise against Australia in their next game.
Theekshana played a crucial role as he claimed eight wickets in three qualifying matches to help Sri Lanka move into the round of Super 12. On the slow pitches of the UAE, the spinners can be potential threat for any team.
However, Theekshana was ruled out of Bangladesh match due to a back injury.
"He's a mystery bowler. He is young and has to go a long way,” said Arthur of Theekshana ahead of the match.
Arthur is well aware of the pitches and the conditions in the UAE due to his coaching stint with Pakistan, when they used to play their home series in the gulf country.
He will also look to extend his impressive run of successive 15 victories in the UAE as a coach. He has a chance to make it sweet sixteen with the romp of his erstwhile team Australia who sacked him in 2013.
Being the former coach of Australia, he also knows the in and outs of the trans-Tasmanian nation. He can reap that knowledge to Lanka’s advantage. He played down the talks of being familiar to the conditions and the pitches of the UAE.
“We do know the wickets. It is been a long time and with Pakistan we played with a set of player many years so it is fresh start,” he stressed.
“But the condition here are very much similar to that of Lanka that has helped us a lot so I hope it becomes sweet sixteen tomorrow,” he concluded.
Australian wicket-keeper Matthew Wade has backed skipper Aaron Finch and David Warner to bounce back from the dismal performances in the opening game against South Africa and lead their campaign to help them win the elusive maiden T20 World Cup title.
Both Finch and Warner put up underwhelming performances as the skipper was out for a duck while the latter scored just 14. Warner came into the tournament on the back of a dismal stint at the IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
"They're terrific players. They just need some runs. Players like them are never out of form. They're just short of runs at the moment."
"It has been discussed a lot even before the tour started. But we know David, he will come good sooner than later. He is class act,” said Wade, throwing his support to back the former vice-captain.
Australia cricket captain Aaron Finch has passed a fitness test and will play against Sri Lanka in Sunday’s first of three Twenty20 matches.
Namibia reached the Twenty20 World Cup second round for the first time on Friday when they defeated Ireland by eight wickets.World number 19 Namibia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, chased down their modest target of 126 with skipper Gerhard Erasmus making an unbeaten 53.
Asif Ali stole the show with a quick-fire 12-ball 27 cameo after Haris Rauf took four for to help Pakistan set up a five-wicket victory against New Zealand in their T20 World Cup match at Sharjah Stadium on Tuesday.
Pakistan made a light work of the modest total to break their losing jinx against India after 12 failed attempts in the showpiece events. Prior to this match, India had defeated Pakistan in all 12 World Cup matches .
The closing ceremony was graced by former Indian cricket team captain Mohammad Azharuddin, as Chief Guest, Dr M Rafiuddin, Convener, BITS Pilani Sports Festival, Prof. Srinivasan Madapusi, Director BPDC, Dr Priti Bajpai, Dean, Student Welfare, and students from various colleges and Media.
The only Thoroughbred race on the card, it was contested by a field of 15 but very few ever managed to land a blow with Bernardo Pinheiro and Rebel Streak setting a decent gallop until Buckell, having pretty much stalked the lead throughout, committed for home entering the short straight.
An unbroken opening century stand by Abid Ali and debutant Abdullah Shafique gave Pakistan a solid platform after bowling out Bangladesh for 330 on day two of the first Test in Chittagong on Saturday.