By Champika Fernando in Centurion

Skipper Upul Tharanga yesterday welcomed the return of the world’s feared bowler in the shorter format, Lasith Malinga for the three-match Twenty20 series against Australia.

Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka bowls  during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between England and Sri Lanka at Wellington Regional Stadium on March 1, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. © Getty Images

Lasith Malinga will return after a long injury lay-off. © Getty Images

Sri Lanka will play three T20 Internationals and a practice match on their tour of Australia starting on February 17.

Malinga returns to the side for the first time since the Asia Cup in 2016 after a bone-bruise ruled him out of cricket for a year.

He was selected for the World T20 last year but withdrew from the side due to his left knee injury.

He was expected to return for the South African series but suffered a dengue attack in December prolonging his return to the side.

“I am delighted to have him in the side,” Tharanga who will be leading the T20 side for the first time said. “He is champion bowler, a proven match winner and his return certainly gives us the edge in the series.”

Malinga has played 62 T20 Internationals in his career claiming 78 wickets with a best of five for 31.

Tharanga who is currently leading the limited over side after Angelo Mathews was ruled out with a hamstring injury also said that the return of Chamara Kapugedara, Milinda Siriwardana and Dasun Shanaka have strengthened the side.

None of the above three cricketers were considered for the concluded series against South Africa due to poor form.

“It’s good to have these cricketers with experience in the side. Even though Australians are under-strength for the series we all know they play a lot of T20 cricket as oppose to us. So it’s good to have experience in the side,” he said.

He is also delighted by the faith the selectors have kept on him to lead the side which also has the World T20 winning Skipper in Malinga.

“I never expected the captaincy. When Angelo and Dinesh Chandimal were injured I was asked to lead the side in Zimbabwe and again here in South Africa. This is the first time I am leading the T20 side and I believe given the strength of the squad we are in a very good position to win the series,” the 32-year-old said.

Tharanga made his T20 debut in 2006 but has played only 11 matches across 11 years. He played his first T20 match since 2012 against South Africa scoring 20 runs, helping Sri Lanka’s series triumph.

Squad: Upul Tharanga (Captain), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Asela Gunaratna, Dilshan Munaweera, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Sachith Pathirana, Chamara Kapugedara, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Kulasekara, Isuru Udana, Dasun Shanaka, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga and Vikum Sanjaya