Sri Lanka - Afghanistan World T20 Preview: Both sides look to get off to flying starts

The second match in Group 1 will take place in Kolkata.

Sri Lanka - Afghanistan World T20 Preview: Both sides look to get off to flying starts
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The fourth match of the World T20 Super 10 stages sees Sri Lanka and Afghanistan face off in Group 1 in Kolkata. 

Sri Lanka will be looking to start their defence of the competition with a win, after emerging victorious in 2014 when they beat India by six wickets in the final in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka come into the tournament having played in the Asia Cup, but it was an incredibly disappointing event as they only managed to win one match from four - that coming against the United Arab Emirates. They also struggled in their warm-up matches, losing out to Pakistan and New Zealand by 15 and 74 runs respectively. They come into the event in a real bad run of form, but will be glad to be facing the weakest team in the group first.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, are in rich vein of form. The Afghans beat Scotland in their opening qualifying match by 14 runs before seeing off Hong Kong by six wickets, which meant that heading into the final match - where they faced Zimbabwe - it was winner takes all.

In the end Afghanistan emerged victorious comfortably, winning by 59 runs to seal their passage through to the Super 10's.

T20 Rankings

Coming into this event, there isn't a very big gap between the two in terms of rankings. Sri Lanka begin the event in eighth place, whilst the qualifiers lie just the one place below in ninth.

Although there is not much between them here, in terms of the rating number - which sides get based on results - there is 29 rating places between the two. This shows from the tier one nations to the tier two nations just how much of a gap there is.

Any side can beat another on any given day though, and it's just who turns up and performs on the day which counts.

Key Players

Tillakaratne Dilshan - Dilshan has been a real stalwart for the Sri Lankans over the years in all forms of the game and will once more be vital if his side are to progress to a later stage of the competition.

When Dilshan gets going with the bat, he is very difficult to keep at arm’s length and is one of the most exciting players to watch in world cricket at the moment. Although his form has hit a bit of a dip in recent matches, he can still bring an awful lot to the table.

The tournament being in India will suit Dilshan too, as he has played in these conditions throughout his long career - which began all the way back in 1999.

He also offers an option with the ball as he bowls spin and frequently opens for the Sri Lankans. He has played 74 times in international T20 cricket, scoring 1751 runs at an average of 28.

Mohammad Shahzad - Shahzad's passion has been visible on and off the field, clapping and guiding his team-mates through the end overs. However, his primary role is with the bat, and he has found a blend between aggression and caution, with ones and twos becoming an increasingly vital part of his game.

Shahzad played a key role in his sides progression to this stage and if they are to cause any shocks in this tournament then he will be need to be at his best, getting his side off to flying starts. There is an element of unpredictability as the Sri Lankans won’t have bowled an awful lot at him either, which is something which could help in his side's opening match of the World T20.

Team News

Despite a fluid batting and bowling order, Afghanistan's XI is settled. With the pitch expected to play on the slower side, they may opt for an extra spinner in place of Hamid Hassan.

Many of their players were really at their best in the qualifying stages and will need to be at it right from the off if they are to go on to a further stage in the competition. Mohammad Nabi was one of the key performers as they made it to the event, and he will once more be vital to their success.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 4 Mohammad Nabi, 5 Gulbadin Naib, 6 Shafiqullah, 7 Samiullah Shenwari, 8 Najibullah Zadran, 9 Dawlat Zadran, 10 Rashid Khan, 11 Hamid Hassan.

As for Sri Lanka, Lahiru Thirmanne made a 29-ball 41 and a 37-ball 45 at number 3 in the warm-ups against New Zealand and Pakistan, and is likely to keep his place.

Bowler Lasith Malinga is still doubtful for this clash, and could be excluded as a preventive measure unless he has completely recovered from his bone bruise.

Sri Lanka are having to move on from losing Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who have both recently retired. but the they haven't really found any proper replacements for the pair who were really key members of a really successful side across the years.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Milinda Siriwardana, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Chamara Kapugedera, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Sachithra Senanayake, 11 Dushmantha Chameera.