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'Underdogs' Sri Lanka turn to Malinga

Islanders hoping key quick can stand up to ODI rigours as they look to shake off shock loss to Scotland

Sri Lanka have turned to old warhorse Lasith Malinga to put fight into their Champions Trophy campaign and reverse their decline in the one-day game.

The islanders have missed Malinga - one of the world's great fast bowlers - through injury and their performances have suffered.

Sri Lanka won a series against Zimbabwe and West Indies last year but have also been beaten in one-day internationals tours of England and South Africa in recent times.

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So selectors have turned to Malinga and brought back fit-again allrounder Angelo Mathews to lead the side for the 50-over tournament starting June 1.

Malinga, 33, was a surprise choice considering he has played hardly any international cricket in the past 18 months.

The slinging quick recently won the Indian Premier League title with the Mumbai Indians however. Malinga was the only player excused from the high altitude training camp for Sri Lanka's United Kingdom-bound players because of the IPL campaign.

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"His fitness is improving and we are hoping that he will be able to deliver the full quota of 10 overs (a match) in England," said Sri Lanka Cricket president Thilanga Sumathipala.

Sri Lanka have also appointed Allan Donald as fast bowling coach for the tournament after bringing back Graham Ford for a second coaching stint with the team since early 2016.

Donald said he has high hopes for the pace attack of Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekera, Thisara Perera and Malinga.

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"The Sri Lankan attack has what it takes to win the tournament," said Donald, the first South African to 300 Test wickets.

"Sri Lanka has a lot of skills. A lot of leadership with the ball ... what is there to be scared of?"

Ford has played down the team's chances in the eight-nation event however, calling them the tournament "underdogs".

"Sometimes that is a good place to be. We've certainly got a chance of upsetting one of the so-called better nations. We will just be going one game at a time," said the South African.

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Those hopes hit an early snag when world's sixth ranked ODI team were beaten by Scotland in a warm-up 50-over game in Kent this week.

Without Malinga, Mathews' men failed to defend 287 and Scotland cantered home in 42.5 overs.

They made some amends by winning the second match against Scotland by nine wickets to end the two-match series on 1-1.

Sri Lanka's best show in the Champions Trophy was back in 2002, when they hosted the event and shared the title with India after the final was twice rained off.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Sourav Ganguly hold the 2002 Champions Trophy aloft // Getty
Sanath Jayasuriya and Sourav Ganguly hold the 2002 Champions Trophy aloft // Getty

But skipper Mathews, who last played an ODI in the home series loss to Australia in August 2016, remains upbeat.

"We will definitely improve day by day and I am sure the boys are up to the challenge," said Mathews.

"We don't have time for hiccups in a tournament like this."

Sri Lanka are in Group B with India, Pakistan and South Africa. They begin the Champions Trophy against the Proteas at The Oval on June 3.


Champions Trophy 2017 Guide


Squads: Every Champions Trophy squad named so far

Group A: Australia, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh.

Group B: India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan.


Schedule


Warm-up matches


26 May – Australia v Sri Lanka, The Oval

27 May – Bangladesh v Pakistan, Edgbaston

28 May – India v New Zealand, The Oval

29 May – Australia v Pakistan, Edgbaston

30 May – New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Edgbaston

30 May – Bangladesh vs India, The Oval


Tournament


1 June – England v Bangladesh, The Oval (Day)

2 June – Australia v New Zealand, Edgbaston (D)

3 June – Sri Lanka v South Africa, The Oval (D)

4 June – India v Pakistan, Edgbaston (D)

5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)

6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)

7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)

8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)

9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)

10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)

11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)

12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)

14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)

15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)

18 June – Final, The Oval (D)


19 June – Reserve day (D)


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