PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka and the West Indies hope for clear weather as they seek to clinch the series with a win in the third and final Test starting at a new venue on Wednesday.
The series is tied at 0-0 after rain-hit drawn matches in Colombo and Galle and the weather is likely to curtail play at the Pallekele International Stadium.
The West Indies, seeking their first Test victory in Sri Lanka, surprised the hosts with their impressive performance in Galle where they enforced the follow-on, restricting the home side to 378 after posting 580-9 declared.
Sri Lanka came back strongly in the second Test in Colombo when they made 387-9 declared in their first innings on a new pitch before bowling the tourists out for 243.
The hosts declared their second innings at 57-1 before taking two West Indies wickets, including that of former captain Chris Gayle, for 12 runs in the final session.
Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who led from the front with a superb 150 in the first innings, expects his bowlers to repeat their performance in a bid to keep pressure on the tourists in the final Test.
The hosts were indebted to their spinners for gaining the upper hand, with Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis and part-timer Tillakaratne Dilshan giving a good account of themselves with three wickets apiece.
Debutant paceman Suranga Lakmal and fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara also backed their spinners.
“If the match had gone the full distance, it would have been great to see our spinners performing,” Sangakkara said after the Colombo Test.
“We applied ourselves in batting and our bowling performance was a lot better than the first Test.”
The West Indies, who arrived in the country with new captain Darren Sammy and an inexperienced bowling attack, will need to be consistent with their batting and bowling.
The tourists batted well in the opening match, with Gayle showing the way with a brilliant 333, but faltered against Sri Lanka’s disciplined pace-spin combination in the next game.
Darren Bravo, 21, impressed in both the Tests with his exciting stroke-play, scoring 58 on debut in Galle and an attractive 80 in Colombo.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to (in the second match), but the series is still 0-0, so we have everything to play for in the final Test. We need to keep improving,” said Sammy.
“Darren Bravo, Kemar Roach and Carlton Baugh all played well (in the second match). It’s been a long time we are going into the final Test of a series 0-0 and the players are looking forward to it.”
Wicket-keeper Baugh contributed a crucial 50 in the second innings to help his side avoid a follow-on, while fast bowler Roach bagged 5-100 in the first innings.
Roach also did well in the opening Test, finishing with five wickets, but the West Indies expect other bowlers to raise their performance.
The West Indies have lost five and drawn three of their eight Tests in Sri Lanka.
No favourites for 2011 World Cup: Sangakkara
PTI: With one country domination over after Australia’s decline, Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara feels that 2011 Cricket World Cup in the sub-continent is going to be one of the most competitive and open one.
“Yes, World Cup next year going to be the most competitive in recent times for a number of reasons.
“Australia have been defeated all around the world. The domination of spin in the sub-continent is also not what it used to be earlier as a lot of teams play spin better now. And for the sub-continent teams, the format of the tournament make it very competitive,” said Sangakkara in a teleconference with journalists from Sri Lanka.
The 2011 World Cup to be hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in February-March will have a total of 14 teams competing in the event with teams divided into two pools of seven each. The top four in each pool would straightaway progress to the quarterfinals.
The format is expected to cut down on the number of one-sided matches at the tournament and will also ensure that each team participates in a minimum of six games before it makes a cut to the last eight stage.
“The straightaway elimination after the first round to make it to quarterfinals and then moving on to the semifinals and final will surely make the mega-event even more tougher this time,” said Sangakkara, who on Monday dethroned Sachin Tendulkar from the top spot in the batting chart of the ICC Test rankings.
Sangakkara, who is the brand ambassador of a programme ‘Cricket unites for people living with HIV on World Aids Day’, also spoke about importance of creating awareness around the disease, ahead of the World Aids Day on December 1.
He stressed on the importance of cricketers’ support for the Think Wise initiative, a joint partnership between the ICC, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative that has been running since 2003, which aims to raise awareness around HIV prevention and eliminate discrimination against people living HIV and AIDS.
“It is very important because many people living with HIV live in cricket-playing countries. It is something that you cannot escape no matter where we play and the lack of awareness and low sense of risk are some of the factors that contribute to high risk taking, making particularly young people in the 15-24 year age group vulnerable to infection,” said the cricketer.
Bangladesh skipper Shakib-ul-Hasan also joined the campaign as the brand ambassador from this year, which also includes another cricket captain, South Africa’s Graeme Smith.
Not only the brand ambassadors, even other players and match officials would do their bit in creating awareness as they will all wear red ribbons in the one-day matches being played on December 1 between Bangladesh-Zimbabwe, India-New Zealand and Sri Lanka-West Indies, as well as on the opening day of the Ashes Test match between Australia and England on December 3.
Sangakkara back on top in ICC Test rankings
Sri Lanka Cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara has regained the number one position in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen after his 150 against the West Indies at the drawn second Test in Colombo.
Sangakkara replaced India’s Sachin Tendulkar with 882 rating points in comparison to Tendulkar’s 859.
Sangakkara hit his 24th Test Century during the rain-drawn second Test match against West Indies at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo last week.
Sri Lanka’s vice captain Mahela Jayawardena made it in the list at 6th place with 781 points, 12 points behind South Africa’s AB de Villiers while Thilan Samaraweera placed at the 10th position with 763 points.
India’s Virendar Sehwage was positioned as the third highest scoring Test batsman with 9 points behind Tendulkar.