Sri Lanka will choose to bed in their new-look ODI outfit over blooding young players in the dead-rubber against West Indies, captain Angelo Mathews has said.
The hosts have already been fielding an inexperienced middle order through the series. There are no rankings positions on the line for the hosts, but they will close the gap on fourth-placed New Zealand to four points if they sweep the series.
“We are trying to get our team settled,” Mathews said. “There might be one or two changes, but largely we’ll try to stay away from too many changes. The points from a victory are also important. And we already have quite a few young players in the team. As far as the seniors are concerned, we only have Tillakaratne Dilshan as a batsman, and Lasith Malinga as a bowler. So we don’t need to bring too many youngsters into the side.”
The third ODI appears to be an ideal opportunity to field uncapped legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay, who has performed creditably for Sri Lanka A over the past few months. The weather, however, may prevent his ODI debut.
“There is a chance to play Vandersay, but if there is a bit of wet weather around, it’s hard for a legspinner to grip a wet ball,” Mathews said. “We’ll take that into consideration. He’s a very good bowler and someone who I think will serve us well, but we’re wary of rushing him.”
Vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne broke a poor stretch of form with a chanceless 81 not out in the second ODI. He had been dropped from the Test side for the Colombo match, but has now shored his place up in the ODI side.
“It was an important innings for him as well as the team,” Mathews said. “He was under a bit of pressure and had been through a rough patch. We all stood up for him and he got the best support he could get from the team. I’m really glad he got that 80-odd.”
Mathews has struggled with a leg injury over the past weeks, and he has only delivered three overs off a short run-up in the series. He suggested his bowling was unlikely to return to 100 per cent before the end of West Indies’ tour.
“My injury is slowly getting better and I’m hoping to get it right for the New Zealand series,” Mathews said. “The calf has been worrying me over the last couple of weeks, so that’s why I couldn’t do a lot. I had no choice but to bowl a few overs in the first ODI, so that’s why I opted to bowl with a short run-up.”
West Indies are playing for points as well as pride. Currently placed at ninth on the ODI rankings, West Indies have already been eliminated from the 2017 Champions Trophy, and are now focused on ensuring they qualify for the 2019 World Cup, captain Jason Holder said. They are 41 ranking points clear of 10th-placed Zimbabwe and 11th-placed Ireland at present. They will earn a ranking point if they win this match.
“We need to take points seriously and take it into consideration,” Holder said. “If we win this last match we salvage some points. From here on in every point will be crucial.”