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Sri Lanka's captain Kusal Mendis (left) and Afghanistan's captain Hashmatullah Shahidi pose with the ODI trophy at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Kandy: Sri Lanka won their one-off Test match against Afghanistan by 10 wickets, but skipper and captain Kusal Mendis said Thursday they face a tougher challenge on the eve of their three-match ODI series.

Afghanistan are making a name for themselves in white-ball cricket, and will take the field with several of their key stalwarts.

“In ODIs, we know Afghanistan will be tougher opponents”, Mendis told reporters ahead of the first match at home in Kandy on Friday.

Afghanistan came sixth in the last year’s ICC Cricket World Cup, where they beat three former champions — England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“They have a lot of experience nowadays thanks to league cricket,” Mendis added.

“They compete against good players and play in all sorts of conditions. They have come a long way, and there’s not much room for error with them.”

Experienced campaigners

Both teams will play three One Day Internationals in Kandy, with the next two matches on 11 and 14 February, followed by three T20 matches in Dambulla.

Afghanistan’s opening batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz, all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, former captain Gulbadin Naib, left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi and chinaman bowler Noor Ahmad are all back in the team for the ODI leg of the tour.

“Quite a few of their experienced campaigners are returning to the side,” Mendis said.

“They have couple of batters who are in form too — but we are confident of doing well in our own backyard.”

Sri Lanka have dropped former captain Dasun Shanaka due to poor form, but have Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne and Dunith Wellalage as all-rounders.

“They are all capable players,” Mendis said, adding that “hopefully one of them will do the job for us”.

But while they were determined to win, Mendis said, there is no immediate goal from the ODI series.

Sri Lanka were knocked out of the 2025 Champions Trophy — scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan — by finishing ninth in the ODI World Cup.

“We have struggled in ODI cricket quite a bit in the last few years,” said Mendis, adding that the island nation was “so disappointed” not to qualify for the Champions Trophy.

“Our next aim 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.”