Pride at stake for struggling Sri Lanka


Sri Lankan chief cricket selector Sanath Jayasuriya (C) speaks with cricket team manager Asanka Gurusinha (L) and Sri Lankan Test cricket team captain Dinesh Chandimal at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium yesterday, August 11. The third Test between India and Sri Lanka starts in Pallekele today.(Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP)

Rex Clementine
reporting from Pallekele

Sri Lanka are quite formidable at home and only once have been whitewashed. Ricky Ponting in his first series as captain achieved the milestone when he handed Sri Lanka a 3-0 drubbing in Shane Warne’s return series after a drug ban in 2004. Australia were ranked number one at that stage and virtually nothing was impossible for the invincibles as they won everywhere. Similarly, India are ranked number one in Tests and under Virat Kohli have won eighth series in a row –although there are question marks about their ability to compete in South Africa and England.

The tourists will be heading to the third and final Test against Sri Lanka here at Pallekele, starting today, hoping to match only what Ponting’s side has done. As for Sri Lanka, their batting has shown definite improvement in the series but questions remain whether their bowlers can take 20 wickets.

"We have already won the series, but as I said it doesn’t mean that we can be complacent. For us it is another Test match that we are going to try and win. I think we need to stay in the present and treat every session with respect to win a Test match, and that’s exactly what we want to follow," Indian captain Virat Kohli told journalists.

India have played superbly and their bowlers’ burdens have been eased off after the batsmen posted 600 plus runs in both Tests. There will be more worries for Sri Lanka with their most successful bowler Rangana Herath ruled out of the game with a back strain.

With Nuwan Pradeep too ruled out with a hamstring injury, Sri Lanka will have to dig deep to challenge the strong Indian outfit. Sri Lanka missed the services of all-rounder Asela Gunaratne at the start of the series itself after he fractured his left thumb while attempting a catch.

"If you lose players like Rangana, Nuwan and Asela it becomes a big blow. We’re struggling because of that, but we don’t want to give excuses. We have a good team for this game and we’re looking forward to win this and get the confidence to move forward," Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal added.

The hosts will be relieved that Ravindra Jadeja, who was Man of the Match in the second Test at SSC is suspended. During Sri Lanka’s second innings in Colombo, after fielding the ball off his own bowling, Jadeja threw the ball towards the batsman – Malinda Pushpakumara – in an aggressive manner. He was found to have breached the ICC Code of Conduct for Players.

Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is likely to play the game as India look to do just one change for the game.

The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, have to think of all sorts of combinations. They are unlikely to commit the same mistake that was done at SSC where they went with just once seam bowler. They are likely to play Lahiru Kumara and Vishwa Fernando. Lahiru Gamage could debut if they decide to pack the side with an additional seamer. If they opt to go with just two seamers, then Lakshan Sandakan will play.

Sri Lanka (Probable XI): Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella (Wicketkeeper), Kusal Mendis, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Lahiru Gamage or Lakshan Sandakan.

India (From): Virat Kohli (Captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan and Axar Patel.


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