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Another teenager makes his way into ODI squad

Sri Lanka cricket selectors continued to keep faith on performing youngsters when they included 19-year-old right-arm fast-medium bowler Lahiru Kumara in the 16-member squad named for the third One-Day International against Australia at the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium on Sunday.

Educated at Trinity College, Kandy, Kumara was one of the top performers in the Sri Lanka Under 19 team’s recent tour of England where he bowled them to a series victory in the second U19 Youth test at Northampton with a haul of 11 wickets for 134 runs.

Kumara who took seven wickets for 82 runs in the first innings inflicted on England a rare home defeat when they lost by seven wickets and with it the two-match series. Kumara was made man of the match.

Kumara is the second teenager the national selection committee has given recognition to during the on-going series with Australia.

Another top performer on the Sri Lanka Under 19 tour to England opening bat Avishka Fernando who scored back to back centuries in the Under 19 Youth ODI series is already a part of the 16-member squad having been brought in at the start of the five-match series.

“We brought in Kumara because we want an extra fast bowler in the squad for Dambulla and Pallekele where conditions are likely to favour fast bowlers,” said chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya.

Making way for Kumara is left-arm spin all-rounder Milinda Siriwardana. The rest of the squad remains unchanged.

The selectors also included another in-form bowler to the squad at the start of the series 23-year-old left-arm spinner Amila Aponso who has created many problems to the Aussie batsmen with his spin variations in the ODI series.

Aponso was picked on the back of his 13-wicket match haul for Sri Lanka Development Emerging team against South Africa Emerging Players in the four-day game at Potchefstroom on their recent tour to South Africa.

Sri Lanka are currently undergoing a rare period where they have to cope with a series of injuries to their fast bowlers – Dhammika Prasad, Chameera Dushmantha and Nuwan Pradeep. A fourth bowler Shaminda Eranga has been suspended by the ICC who has deemed his bowling action illegal.

The third ODI at Dambulla will be veteran opener Tillakaratne Dilshan’s final ODI appearance before he retires from that format. He will retire from all levels of cricket when he plays in the second T20 International against Australia at the R Premadasa Stadium on September 9.

The selectors have not named a squad for the fourth and fifth ODIs having Dilshan’s retirement in mind.

With Kusal Perera likely to occupy the number seven slot where he made a superb half-century in Sri Lanka’s 82-run win over Australia in the second ODI at the R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday, the vacancy for an opener exists.

“Danushka Gunathilaka will fill one of the opener’s berths, there is also Niroshan Dickwella who has been performing well in that position with the Sri Lanka ‘A’ squad,” said Jayasuriya..

In the two ODIs so far Sri Lanka has not got the starts they expect from the openers. Dilshan and Kusal Perera made three and, Dilshan and Danuska Gunathilaka 12.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews speaking in the defence of his openers said, “Our opening partnerships have not been great right from the Test series and the ODIs we need to try and put a big effort. (Mitchell) Starc is bowling pretty well and he has been getting wickets upfront with the new ball. It’s not easy for the openers to face him in this kind of form.”

The pitches the Aussies have encountered in the first two ODIs have been spin-oriented, but they can expect some kind of assistance for their fast bowlers at Dambulla where the strong winds could help them to swing the ball.

SRI LANKA SQUAD FOR 3RD ODI: Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal (vice-captain), Angelo Mathews (captain), Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Perera, Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan, Amila Aponso, Lahiru Kumara.
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