Having failed to give Rangana Herath a perfect send-off in Galle, Sri Lanka will now look to bounce back and draw level in the three-match series when they take on England in the second Test at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday (November 14).
The 40-year-old left-arm spinner only managed three wickets in the game as the home side went down by 211 runs. Herath is now gone, and to add on that, Sri Lanka will be without their regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who will be out of action for around two weeks because of a grade one muscle tear in his groin. The Islanders will be led by paceman Suranga Lakmal, who will look to turn things around for his home country in Pallekele.
To everyone's surprise, Sri Lanka were a given the taste of their own medicine by the English spin trio of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach in the first Test. The trio took 16 wickets between them and didn't allow any Sri Lankan batsman to come up with a big score. While Angelo Mathews crossed the 50-run mark in both the innings, others failed to convert their starts into something more weighty. Sri Lanka only managed scores of 203 and 250 in Galle, but if they want to put more pressure on the touring side, the batsmen will have to put their hands up and come up with a game plan against English spinners.
The likes of Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva scored those 20s, 30s and 40s but Sri Lanka will need much more than that. The hosts have also roped in 21-year-old Charith Asalanka as Chandimal's replacement. The promising batting all-rounder is yet to make his international debut but it will be interesting to see if Sri Lanka play him ahead of Roshen Silva, who has already featured in eight Tests.
Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya and Lakmal did a decent job in the first encounter but Sri Lanka will have to look for Herath's replacement, and they do have left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara and left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan in the squad. Meanwhile, Dananjaya. who was reported for a suspect bowling action following the opening Test, can continue bowling until the results of the test are known.
Meanwhile, England almost had a perfect game in Galle. Moeen, Rashid and Leach managed to outperform their counterparts, while debutant Ben Foakes (107) and Keaton Jennings (146*) crafted much-required centuries. The team management will be extremely delighted with Jennings' return to form as the left-hander looked at complete ease during his stay in the middle.
England have named an unchanged XI for the second Test and skipper Joe Root has assured that Foakes will be their number one wicketkeeper for the remaining two Tests. The visiting side have opted to go without Jonny Bairstow who has successfully recovered from his injury.
"In these conditions, I think Ben is the best option behind the stumps," declared Root. "Jonny is a fine keeper and what he's done over the last couple of years has been exceptional. He's pretty much been faultless and long-term see him as a focal part of the Test team. It's a great opportunity for Ben to show his ability and I think you've got to reward a performance like last week."
Meanwhile, Ben Stokes will bat at number three after Moeen failed to take his opportunity in Galle, being dismissed for a golden duck in the first innings and scoring just three in the second. Stokes managed scores of 6 and 62 in the last match.
England are going with the same bowling attack, with James Anderson, Sam Curran and Stokes providing ample support to the spinners. The track in Pallekeke is expected to turn and Moeen, Rashid and Leach will once again have to play a key role if England want to win the series in Sri Lanka for the first time since 2000-01.
Sri Lanka have won all the three Tests under Lakmal's leadership and they will have to add one more to the tally in Pallekele if they want to keep themselves alive in the series.
Sri Lanka (squad) : Suranga Lakmal (capt), Akila Dananjaya, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Kasun Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Roshen Silva, Kaushal Silva.
England (Playing XI): Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings, Ben Stokes, Joe Root (capt), Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes (wk), Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Jack Leach and James Anderson.
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First Published: November 14, 2018, 9:32 AM IST