Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal during practice at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in preparation for the England Test series
- First Test against England starts in Galle today
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Injury-hit Sri Lanka (SL) will be bolstered by the return of two of their experienced batsmen – former captains Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal – for the first of two Tests against England starting at the Galle International Cricket Stadium today.
Both players suffered hamstring injuries – Mathews before the tour of South Africa and Chandimal during the first Test at Centurion, but skipper Dimuth Karunaratne assured that both have been declared fit to play and will be in the starting line-up.
SL’s only concern is fast bowler Suranga Lakmal, who missed the South African series also due to a hamstring injury. Karunaratne, speaking in a virtual media conference, said that he was keen to have his experienced spearhead in the final eleven, but due to the prevalent bad weather they have experienced in Galle since their return from South Africa, they have not had the opportunity to put Lakmal through his paces and see how match fit he is.
“We have to see whether Suranga can take a big bowling load after injury. We couldn’t do that yet. Tomorrow (Thursday) we will give a fitness test to the players coming from injury and then decide on the final eleven. We are most concerned about Suranga, whom we are hoping to play. If he is unable to do so there is Asitha (Fernando), Vishwa (Fernando) and Dushmantha (Chameera); one of them will get the opportunity to play,” said Karunaratne.
With Sri Lanka planning to go with two fast bowlers and three spinners for the Test, Karunaratne said that Dasun Shanaka has a very good chance to play as a fast bowling all-rounder.
“He bowled well in South Africa and as we are going mainly with spin, we can get the balance to the side by playing Dasun because he can also make the batting line-up stronger.”
The number three spot is a toss-up between two struggling batsmen, namely Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Mendis.
“We have a good chance to play ‘Thiri’ because he has played well in South Africa. We didn’t get much time to practice in Galle, we will take a call on the number three position tomorrow.”
The probable SL playing eleven would be: Dimuth Karunaratne (C), Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne/Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Suranga Lakmal (subject to fitness), Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera and Lasith Embuldeniya.
SL has not played a home Test since August 2019 when they hosted New Zealand, but on a track which Karunaratne says will assist spin from day one, he is confident that his team has a better chance against England than when they last played here in 2018.
“We have a good chance against this England side that is minus players like (Ben) Stokes, and (Keaton) Jennings who scored a hundred at Galle. They have brought a lot of new players who are not experienced in Sri Lankan conditions, yet we are not taking them lightly. We have seen how they have been preparing for the series. After COVID-19, England have been among the first countries to start playing international cricket and they have maintained their fitness levels well. Although, we are not at full strength because of injuries, we have the home advantage so we must try to use that to our advantage with the players we have,” said Karunaratne.
From the 21-member squad that toured South Africa, SL have left out Dhananjaya de Silva and Kasun Rajitha, who were both injured and Santhush Gunathilaka and Dilshan Madushanka, while including Angelo Mathews, Roshane Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep and Ramesh Mendis in an expanded 22-member squad for the England series.
SL TEST SQUAD FOR ENGLAND SERIES:
Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Oshada Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lasith Embuldeniya, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Dasun Shanaka, Asitha Fernando, Roshane Silva, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep and Ramesh Mendis.