Sri Lanka won their only Test match against Afghanistan by 10 wickets but captain and captain Kusal Mendis on Thursday said they will face a tough challenge on the eve of the three-match ODI series. Afghanistan are making a name for themselves in white ball cricket and will field with many of their key stalwarts. “In the one-day matches, we know Afghanistan will be a strong opponent,” Mendis told reporters ahead of the first match at home in Kandy on Friday. In both the previous series against Sri Lanka, Afghanistan had played a 1-1 draw in 2022 and lost 2-1 in 2023.
But Afghanistan finished sixth in last year's ICC Cricket World Cup, where they defeated three former champions – England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“He has a lot of experience these days because of league cricket,” Mendis said.
“They compete against good players and play in all types of conditions. They've come a long way, and there's not much room for error with them.”
Afghan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi said he is confident that his team – ranked ninth in the world – is capable of a series win over seventh-ranked Sri Lanka.
“We are confident… our experienced people are back in the team,” Shahidi said.
“We are playing good cricket in ODIs, as we showed in the last World Cup. We have proved that we are one of the best teams in ODI cricket,” he said.
– 'Create Attack' –
Both teams will play three One Day Internationals in Pallekele, Kandy, with the next two on February 11 and 14, followed by three T20 matches in Dambulla.
Afghanistan's opening batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz, all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, former captain Gulbadin Naib, left-arm fast Fazalhaq Farooqui and chinaman bowler Noor Ahmed are back in the squad for the ODI leg of the tour.
“Some of their experienced campaigners are returning to the team,” Mendis said.
“They have some batsmen who are in form – but we are confident of doing well on home soil.”
Sri Lanka have dropped former captain Dasun Shanaka due to poor form, but have kept Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne and Dunith Velalej as all-rounders.
“They are all capable players, hopefully one of them will do the job for us,” Mendis said.
But while they were determined to win, Mendis said, there were no immediate targets beyond the ODI series.
Sri Lanka were eliminated from the 2025 Champions Trophy to be hosted by Pakistan due to their ninth-place finish in the ODI World Cup.
“We have struggled a lot in one-day cricket over the last few years,” Mendis said. He said the island nation was “very disappointed” at failing to qualify for the Champions Trophy.
“Our next target is to build a team for the (ODI) World Cup, which is three years away,” he said.
“We know the World Cup is in South Africa, so we need to build an attack based on fast bowlers.”
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