By Madushka Balasuriya
Dinesh Chandimal has been named in Sri Lanka’s Test squad to face South Africa despite a looming ICC sanction which could rule him out for the first two Tests.
Suranga Lakmal will likely take over the captaincy if Chandimal is unavailable.
Chandimal and Coach Chandika Hathurusingha have both pleaded guilty to a level three spirit of cricket offence following a nearly two-hour delay on the third morning of the second West Indies Test after the Sri Lankan team had failed to take the field upon being notified that Chandimal was being charged with ball tampering. Sri Lanka are expected to request leniency, though a minimum two-Test ban is expected. The ICC hearing is set for 10 July.
Sri Lanka will also be sweating the availability of Rangana Herath and Kusal Janith Perera over fitness concerns. Herath is recovering from split webbing in his bowling hand, which had already ruled him out of the third West Indies Test, while Perera - despite soldiering on the final day to lead Sri Lanka to victory - had been in considerable discomfort in the third Test having collided with a boundary hoarding while on the field.
Elsewhere, Dimuth Karunaratne returns to the squad after having missed the West Indies tour, while Danushka Gunathilaka keeps his place, having been flown in midway through the West Indies series as a replacement for Angelo Mathews, who was seeing to the birth of his second child. Lakshan Sandakan also returns following impressive performances for Sri Lanka A.
That means there’s no room for Mahela Udawatte who had a disappointing West Indies tour, Asitha Fernando or Jeffrey Vandersay, who is suspended following disciplinary issues. Lahiru Gamage is also out after sustaining a finger fracture in the Caribbean.
Full squad: Dinesh Chandimal – Captain, Angelo Mathews, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Janith Perera (subject to fitness), Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath (subject to fitness), Suranga Lakmal – Vice Captain, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Lahiru Kumara, Lakshan Sandakan and Kasun Rajitha
Mathews to captain SL Board XI, Dhananjaya also included
ESPNCricinfo: Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva and Roshen Silva - all incumbents in the Sri Lanka Test top order - will play the two-day warm-up game against South Africa in Colombo.
Essentially, this is an attempt to get the three batsmen into form, and perhaps give them a sighting of the South Africa attack before the Test series begins. Mathews had to leave last month’s tour of West Indies after the first Test to attend the birth of his second child, while Roshen and Dhananjaya were short of runs in the Caribbean, having each averaged below 15.
The match may also be an audition for Danushka Gunathilaka, with Sri Lanka mulling their options as to who might open the innings alongside Dimuth Karunaratne. Gunathilaka has been named in the Test squad but does not have a steady place in the XI, having failed to impress on the occasions he has played.
The bowling talent in the Board XI, meanwhile, is decidedly second string, with Sri Lanka reserving their frontliners for the Tests. The match will be played on Saturday and Sunday at the P Sara Oval in Colombo.
Sri Lanka Board XI: Angelo Mathews (capt), Dhananjaya De Silva, Kaushal Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Roshen Silva, Minod Bhanuka (wk), Avishka Fernando, Kasun Madushanka, Lasith Ambuldeniya, Vimukthi Perera, Asitha Fernando