Sri Lanka to overcome controversies to face Afghanistan in ODI series

Sri Lanka will take on Afghanistan in a three-match ODI series from Friday amid an investigation into alleged scandalous conduct by players at the T20 World Cup in Australia. All the three matches will be played at Pallekele International Stadium. Sri Lanka’s campaign in Australia ended with a hard-fought Super 12 defeat at the hands of tournament champions England three weeks ago.

Less than three hours later there were dramatic scenes at the Sri Lanka team hotel in Sydney where opener Dhanushka Gunathilaka was arrested by New South Wales Police and charged with sexual assault. The batsman is out on bail but will not be able to leave Australia until the case is over. Sri Lanka Cricket launched an investigation into the conduct of the players on the tour and all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne was fined $5,000.

He has been given a one-year suspended sentence for breaching the model code of conduct. Karunaratne is accused of being involved in a fight at a casino in Brisbane. The national selectors and the team management are also under fire for not taking a firm stand and their fate will be decided after an inquiry by an inquiry committee. The exclusion of middle-order batsman Bhanuka Rajapaksa from the squad on the eve of the ODI series is an added distraction.

Sri Lanka are eyeing automatic qualification for the 50-over Cricket World Cup to be held in India next year. Sri Lanka are 10th while Afghanistan are seventh in the World Cup Super League. Only the top eight teams automatically qualify for the World Cup and Dasun Shanaka’s men would be looking to improve on their performance.

All-rounder Dunith Velalej has returned to the Sri Lankan squad along with Dinesh Chandimal, who was ruled out of the T20 World Cup due to injury. Meanwhile, Afghanistan have brought in left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmed. He is popular worldwide after establishing himself in league cricket as an economical bowler. The 17-year-old Ahmed made his T20 debut in June and is expected to make his ODI debut in this series.

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