Australia have been put on high alert with Sri Lanka mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana set to return from injury and play in Dubai.
Theekshana has been one of the breakout stars of the Twenty20 World Cup, taking eight wickets in Sri Lanka’s initial pool games.
However he missed their last-up start against Bangladesh through injury, and was again rested from training ahead of Thursday night’s clash with Australia.
But coach Mickey Arthur does expect him to play on Thursday in a massive boost for the Sri Lankans.
The 21-year-old has played just seven internationals for Sri Lanka in both white-ball formats, but has the ability to spin the ball both ways.
Sri Lanka have also made no secret about their plan to go after Australia with spinners, with Aaron Finch’s men expecting to face up to 12 overs of slower bowling.
And they will go in sight unseen against Theekshana, with no Australian having faced him before in a match.
“I like the word mystery spinner … I’ve seen some of the footage,” Australian opener David Warner said.
“You have to watch their hand closely and under lights that’s a difficult thing to do, you don’t get to see the seam.
“From a batter’s perspective it’s about applying pressure like you normally do to any bowler.
“We know coming up against sub-continental teams they like to play two or three spinners against us, which we’re prepared for.”
Sri Lanka are also likely to have legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga and offspinner Charith Asalanka at their disposal.
Arthur is also no stranger to trying to take down Australian with spin.
He coached Australia for three years, with Marcus Stoinis the only member of the team’s top seven not to have played under him.
He has since also been in charge of Pakistan, where they had success against Australia on the same UAE grounds with spin always a factor.
“We obviously have studied Australia,” Arthur said.
“We had a series not so long ago when I was with Pakistan here against him where we did use spin quite successfully.
“If you haven’t seen Maheesh, he certainly poses some questions.
“He has a couple of different balls that do make you quite hesitant if you can’t pick them.”