Sri Lanka might have lost their last two T20 series -- against New Zealand and India -- but they will be keen to deliver in the Asia Cup, starting with their first match when they face UAE at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, Thursday.
The match is not expected to pose any major problems for Sri Lanka, but a massive victory against the UAE can help them send a signal to other teams in the competition.
Sri Lanka have a strong squad for the Asia Cup, with the right mix of senior and young players. Experienced campaigner Lasith Malinga, who has not played any competitive cricket since November, will lead Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, after recovering from the knee injury which he sustained during the West Indies series last year.
When Sri Lanka lost to India in their last series, the Lankan Lions were missing their big stars. The Islanders have got their big names such as Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath back. These experienced players need to play their A-game, if they are to put forward a serious challenge for the Asia Cup title.
However, they will need to take this Asia Cup one match at a time, and focus first on the UAE. Unless, the UAE come up with some brilliant cricket, combined with Sri Lanka playing poor cricket, the Islanders should kickoff their Asia Cup campaign with a win.
Sri Lanka have plenty of experience in their batting lineup, with Tillakaratne Dilshan as their key batsman at the top of the order. In Chamara Kapugedera and Dinesh Chandimal, they have quality players in the middle order, while Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka can smash a few towards the end.
However, their key batsman will be Mathews. The right-hander can clear his left leg and hit the ball a long way into the stands, while also being able to build an innings, if the situation demands it. Mathews has a good career strike rate of 123.72. Along with Mathews, Sri Lanka's other key all-rounder -- Perera -- has a solid strike rate of 144.66. The duo will not only have an important role to play for Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, but also the World T20 in India, which starts next month.
Sri Lanka might not have exceptional batsmen, but they have some good bowlers with Malinga and Kulasakera leading the pace attack. In Herath, Sri Lanka have a great slow left-arm bowler, who can trouble the UAE batsmen.
The UAE, who are massive underdogs for the match, can make a match out of it only if their batsmen can deliver in Mirpur. The UAE batsmen showed that they are a formidable unit in the Aisa Cup qualifiers, scoring 176 runs against Afghanistan and 172 against Oman (both batting first), while they chased down Hong Kongs's score of 146 ruins in 18.3 overs.
The UAE batsmen helped the team win all their matches in the qualifiers, which led to their Asia Cup qualification. UAE will depend on Rohan Mustafa and Muhammad Usman in their batting lineup against Sri Lanka.
UAE captain, Amjad Javed, seems to be confident ahead of their clash against Sri Lanka.
"It is simple: go and play your natural game, believe in yourself, and back your ability. One salient feature of the qualifying phase was the number of players who made vital contributions to the victories," The National quoted Amjad as saying.
"I'm a really lucky captain in that I have more matchwinners in my team. Some teams only have one. I have 11, and three others sitting outside waiting for their turn."
Apart from their batsmen, the UAE bowlers also need to deliver in the T20 contest to have any chances of a shock win against Sri lanka.
Though Sri Lanka resemble a mighty opponent, UAE are expected to come out all guns blazing and play fearless cricket.
Where to watch live
The second match of the Asia Cup – Sri Lanka vs UAE -- is scheduled for a 7.30 pm local time (7 p.m. IST, 1.30 p.m. GMT, 8.30 a.m. ET) start.
India viewers can watch the Sri Lanka vs UAE game live on MTV Sports and Star Network. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch Sri Lanka vs UAE Asia Cup T20 live on OSN Sports Cricket HD. The live stream option is available on OSN Play.
Channel 9 and the Star Network will broadcast the Asia Cup match live in Bangladesh.
Pakistan viewers can watch Sri Lanka vs UAE live on Geo Super, PTV and Star; live streaming option on GeoSuper Live.