Oshada to open batting with Dimuth in first Test

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Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunarathne hinted that in-form Oshada Fernando will open the batting along with skipper Dimuth Karunarathne when the two sides meet in the first Test match in Chittagong on Sunday (15).

The series could prove to be a turning point for both sides, with the tourists desperate to make a push up the standings in the WTC, and Bangladesh eager to stretch the distance from teams languishing at the bottom.

Lahiru Thirimanne has requested three months paternity leave, Pathum Nissanka is recovering from injury, while Charith Asalanka has been told to focus on limited overs formats. Who accompanies Dimuth Karunarathne at the top of the order remains a big question for the tourists given the absent players, with Oshada Fernando potentially the man to move up. The uncapped Kamindu Mendis, who made his name as an ambidextrous spinner, may wind up in the playing XI more for his batting, after a blazing domestic first class season.

 “We have an option with two openers in the side, Oshada Fernando and youngster Kamil Mishara. Oshada has opened the batting with me back on the Pakistan tour and I will probably open the batting with Oshada”, said skipper Dimuth addressing a media briefing on Friday. 

 It’s also the first assignment for new Sri Lankan head coach Chris Silverwood after his unceremonious end with England. He is taking over from Mickey Arthur, who enjoyed a successful tenure with the team. Silverwood is supported by assistant Naveed Nawaz, who himself put his name forward for the top role.

“Chris is a different character. He is the former England coach and we have seen how they (England) played under his tenure and they also defeated us in our own conditions”, the skipper said.  

“He is not trying to change a lot in the players, but has given the opportunity to play freely. He is a guy who loves challenges and loves to play fearless cricket. This is his first series after his appointment, and with his support Sri Lanka cricket will march forward”, he further added. 

While the new coach may invigorate the touring side, a number of fringe players have had the opportunity to impress their new boss, with injuries, absences and the retirement of Suranga Lakmal opening the door for new faces to find their names on the team sheet when the captains meet for the toss.

“We had a great domestic tournament back in Sri Lanka before this series. We have a pretty strong fast bowling unit with the likes of Kasun Rajitha, Asitha Fernando and Vishwa Fernando. With Suranga Lakmal’s retirement this will be a great opportunity for them to showcase their talent and seal their spot in the first XI”, Dimuth added.    

Dimuth Karunarathne also said that the Sri Lankan camp aren’t really concerned about the two-day practice match against BCB XI being washed out by rain, as they had prepared for the two-match Test series at home and the conditions in Bangladesh are also similar. 

”I think we prepared in Sri Lanka for a few weeks and the conditions are pretty similar, so I don’t think the practice match will make a big difference,” the Sri Lanka skipper said. ”We have done enough practice here and are well prepared for the series,” he added.

The two-day practice game between the visiting Sri Lankan side and BCB XI ended in a dull draw after rain allowed only 18.2 overs of action at the BKSP-3 venue. Sri Lanka XI had reached 50-1 when the umpires called off the final day’s play.

On the Bangladesh side, Mehidy Hasan Miraz is out, with pace spearhead Taskin Ahmed also injured after succumbing to a shoulder injury in South Africa. Shakib Al Hasan, who was down with Covid-19, has tested negative and is in contention for the first Test. However, he will undergo further medical and fitness tests before the final decision is made.

Probable XIs

Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Najmul Hossain, Shanto, Mominul Haque (c), Musfiqur Rahim, Litton Das, Yasir Ali, Nayeem Hasan, Taijul Islam, Khaled Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunarathne, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Kamindu Mendis, Lasith Embuldeniya, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Praveen Jayawickrama