Sri Lanka trying to set aside distractions for Afghan ODIs

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — In the midst of an investigation into Sri Lanka's deplorable antics at the T20 World Cup in Australia, Afghanistan was in country for three one-day internationals starting on Friday.

All three games are at Pallekele International Stadium.

Sri Lanka’s campaign in Australia ended three weeks ago after a hard-fought Super 12s defeat at the hands of eventual champion England. Less than three hours later, there were dramatic scenes at the Sri Lanka team hotel in Sydney where opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka was arrested by New South Wales police and charged with sexual assault.

The batsman is out on bail but unable to leave Australia until the case is finished.

Sri Lanka Cricket launched an investigation into the conduct of the players on tour and allrounder Chamika Karunaratne was fined $5,000 and issued a one-year suspended sentence for breaching the code of conduct. Karunaratne is alleged to have been involved in a fight in a Brisbane casino.

The national selectors and team management are also under fire for not being firm, and their fate will be known following the investigation by a probe committee.

Middle-order batsman Bhanuka Rajapaksa's withdrawal from the squad on the eve of the ODI series was further distraction.

In the back of Sri Lanka’s mind is achieving automatic qualification for next year's 50-over Cricket World Cup in India.

Sri Lanka is 10th in the World Cup Super League while Afghanistan is seventh. Only the top eight teams automatically qualify for the World Cup, and Dasun Shanaka's side want to improve their chances.

“We have played lot of cricket here at Pallekele and we know how the conditions will be," Shanaka said.

“It won't be easy to bat under lights as the ball moves around a lot. We have a decent attack and some experience in the middle order with the return of Dinesh Chandimal. We are expecting a good contest.”

Along with Chandimal, who missed the T20 World Cup due to injury, allrounder Dunith Wellalage has also returned.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, has brought left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmed. He is popular around the world having established himself in league cricket as an economical bowler. The 17-year-old Ahmed made his Twenty20 debut in June and he is expected to make his ODI debut in this series.

“We have prepared well," Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi said. “There's a lot of focus on Sri Lanka's spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana and I’m sure our batters will be up for the challenge as we play lot of spin ourselves at nets against the quality spin bowlers we have.”



Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dinesh Chandimal, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara. Dunith Wellalage, Ashen Bandara, Asitha Fernando, Pramod Madushan, Dhananjaya Lakshan.

Afghanistan: Hashmatullah Shahidi (captain), Rahmat Shah, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Azmatullah Omarzai, Fareed Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Gulbadin Naib, Ibrahim Zadran, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ahmad, Rashid Khan, Riaz Hassan, Shahidullah Kamal, Yamin Ahmadzai, Zia-ur-Rehman.


More AP cricket: and