Both teams come into this game in highly contrasting form, but will it mean anything when they face off in their first game of Group A? Afghanistan have won their last five T20 outings – including three consecutive victories to qualify from the preliminary section.
In contrast, a young Sri Lankan outfit has gone through a rough patch in 2016, winning just one of their last five. The country has experienced a golden era of cricket since winning the World Cup twenty years ago, but it appears they are in a something of a rebuild heading into the tournament.
Whether that means an upset in on the cards remains to be seen. The sides didn’t meet during the recent Asia Cup, so it’s hard to gauge exactly how close they are, but certainly it would appear the Afghan side have a better chance than previously imagined.
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka): Malinga’s reputation as a death bowler is pretty much unmatched in the modern era, where bat dominates ball late in the innings. While other quality international bowlers are carved around the park, the 32 year old’s combination of yorkers and slower balls remain among the hardest to get away.
Unlike his team, Malinga is in excellent form coming into the competition having picked up eight wickets in his last three matches at an average of less than eight runs per dismissal. He just needs more support from his team-mates.
Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan): Shahzad made 142 runs in the three qualifying games, trailing only Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal for the most in the tournament so far. He’s scored his runs quickly – at a strike rate of 140 – and has scored at least 40 in every innings so far.
Admittedly he’ll be facing stiffer competition for the rest of the tournament, but he looks the likeliest of Afghanistan’s batsmen to rise to the challenge of facing the world’s premier bowlers.