West Indies have now spent more than a month in Sri Lanka, but are yet to have a lot to show for their time on the island. The Tests went poorly. They have surged in patches during the ODIs, yet now only have pride and a few rankings points to play for in the final match. The points, though, are worth more to them than most – captain Jason Holder has repeatedly pointed out that his team are not safe from being cut from the 10-team 2019 World Cup.
Though Sunil Narine had very nearly won them the first match with one triple-wicket over, West Indies returned to a worrying pattern in the second ODI. They claimed an early wicket on Wednesday, but as had been the case during the World Cup, were toothless through the middle overs.
Maybe a shift to the central plateau will do them good. The Pallekele pitch has usually assisted new-ball bowlers, and has been particularly given to zippy seam under lights. If Jerome Taylor and company can claim three wickets inside the first 15 overs, West Indies may yet succeed in putting Sri Lanka’s inexperienced lower-middle order under pressure.
Sri Lanka may take the opportunity to mix up its attack a little, particularly as Lasith Malinga’s return to form now provides them a reliable failsafe. Dushmantha Chameera appears likeliest to come into the XI, but legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay may be in line for an ODI debut as well.
Sri Lanka: WWWLL (last five matches, most recent first)
West Indies: LLLWL
In the spotlight
If it’s a Pallekele ODI, it’s usually a Tillakaratne Dilshan sort of party. He is the venue’s top-scorer by a distance, with 918 runs at an average of 83.45 at the venue, and he’s also the second-highest wicket-taker, with 13 scalps at 21.61. There are rains forecast for Saturday, but maybe match officials should ask Dilshan to try parting the clouds so the match can go ahead, such is his power in these surrounds.
Darren Bravo has looked in decent touch right through the tour, but has found ways of getting himself out before he has gone on to truly substantial scores. Usually one of West Indies’ better players of spin, he has been dismissed by slow bowlers on both occasions this series. He’ll want to forge past those middling scores and collect at least one match-winning knock before leaving Sri Lanka’s shores.
With Ajantha Mendis left out of the T20 squad, Sri Lanka may leave him out in favour of one of the younger bowlers. Sachithra Senanayake may also conceivably be rested.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kusal Perera (wk), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Dinesh Chandimal , 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Shehan Jayasuriya, 8 Sachithra Senanayake/Jeffrey Vandersay, 9, Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Suranga Lakmal
Andre Russell and Denesh Ramdin both appear to have recovered from their ailments, and Holder is also available for this match, which means West Indies are back to full strength. They may return to the combination they fielded in the first ODI.
West Indies (probable): 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Andre Fletcher, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Jonathan Carter, 6 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 7 Jason Holder (capt.), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Carlos Brathwaite, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Jerome Taylor
Pitch and conditions
Showers are expected throughout the day on Saturday, so another shortened match looms. The Pallekele surface is normally more conducive to bounce, carry and seam than the Khettarama pitch, though there is often turn at the venue as well.
Stats and trivia
Kusal Perera has three 50-plus scores in from his last six innings. Each of those scores has earned him a man-of-the-match award.
Lasith Malinga has the most wickets at Pallekele, with 21 scalps at an average of 23.04.
Andre Russell needs 15 more runs to reach 1000 in ODIs