1ST TEST AT GALLE
Getting the fly out of the ointment will be the big hurdle Sri Lanka faces heading for the first of the 2-Test home series against a strong England starting at the Galle International Stadium on Friday January 14. England buoyed by a 1-nil series defeat of Pakistan at the tail-end of last year. Despite not having the services of several regular players, skipper Joe Root commands a well equipped and balanced batting and bowling outfit. Top notched Ben Stokes has been rested along with frontline pace bowler Jofra Archer and the unavailability of regular opening batsman Rory Burn s as well as Moeen Ali sidelined by the Corona virus.
Indeed, it will be serious strictly cricketing buckling down business to ridding that fly stuck in the ointment of certain conspicuous failures primarily No.3 star batsman Kusal Mendis, that literally stuck Sri Lanka in the mud in the 2-nil caving in to the South Africans. That Mendis’ three-duck failure in that let down in the pivotal one drop slot to an injury decimated side in the inform batsmen Dhananjaya de Silva and Dinesh Chandimal had much to do in the reversal of hitherto historic successive series successes over South Africa exemplified by ‘in their own backyard triumph’ was key to the nose diving precipitation last time out. While pointed failures by debutant batsman Minod Bhanuka was also a contributory factor therein, compounding injuries that sidelined seven key players must also be a serious concerning issue to the Lankan camp as to the handling of player fitness problems that is a certain indictment of the authority responsible for keeping players injury free. Failure therein is a stark reminder to the Alex Kontouri period in the Australian born physiotherapist’s successive injury free formula of that historic turn around chapter of the Arjuna Ranatunga era magnified by mighty world cup 1995-96 trophy glitter.
Besides, the South Africa tour defeats must also in that debacle be a wake up realism as to the wisdom of stereo type one track selection policy of laying faith in the same old brooms in a reality age of the pointedly Indian and Australian reliance pay off policies in blooding promising new brooms. In that vein making one ponder as to the sidelining of the 1000-run giant domestic run getter opening batsman Lahiru Igagalgamage in successive seasons.
All in all, it will be wakeup call time to Dimuth Karunaratne’s charges as Sri Lanka strives to put behind the South African debacle and injury problems against a rampant England side led by Joe Root. With Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer rested, England’s 16-strong squad sees Jonny Bairstow recalled, alongside fellow wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes, both of whom hit centuries during England’s last tour 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka.
The batting runs strong with Zak Crawley, the likely replacement for regular opener Rory Burns while Bairstow will likely slot in at No.3, with the much talked of Dan Lawrence, who reportedly says he believes in doing things his own way, set to debut at No.5 . With all-rounder Moeen Ali said to miss both tests due to COVID-19 quarantining, the bowling will mainly revolve around Olly Stone and Jack Leach who have been recalled after 2019 while Ollie Pope, who injured his shoulder during England’s Test series against Pakistan, set to make a comeback.
England’s reserves is loaded with bowling options in spinners Mason Crane, Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson and fast bowlers Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton and Ollie Robinson while James Bracey is the sole batting option.
SRI LANKA SQUAD:
Dimuth Karunaratne (Capt.), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Minod Bhanuka, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Lasith Embuldeniya, Asitha Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Vishwa Fernando, Santhush Gunathilake, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Dilshan Madushanka, Angelo Mathews, Dilruwan Perera, Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka, Lahiru Thirimanne
ENGLAND SQUAD: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Reserves: James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.