Sri Lanka undecided on playing XI

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Sri Lanka are undecided whom to pick in the final XI as they walk in to the second Test against Australia in Galle today.

They have plenty of problems to solve, and their difficulties have been exacerbated by a Covid-19 outbreak in the squad which has ruled out four players, although Angelo Mathews, the first case, is available again. Their bowling attack will look considerably different, although that may have been the case anyway after the spinners were unable to keep any control of Australia’s batters.

But they also need their senior batters to step forward. There is no lack of experience in the top order, but it was collectively a very poor performance in the opening Test, even though coach Chris Silverwood was not critical of their second innings approach as conditions became even tougher, having also been able to bat first when conditions were, relatively speaking, at their best.

The bare facts would suggest Australia have Sri Lanka’s number and should be comfortable favourites to take the series 2-0, but the nature of the pitch – if, as expected, it is anything like the opening game – means that form, perhaps, does not play the role it often does. One spell, one collapse, and things can change quickly.

Dimuth Karunaratne said that the Sri Lanka squad will have to get through a round of rapid antigen tests before they would know who was available. There will be at least four changes and they will be hoping the Covid-19 outbreak is under control. Dhananjaya de Silva, Asitha Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay and Lasith Embuldeniya – with the latter dropped – are out for certain. Although Oshada Fernando was Angelo Mathews’ Covid sub last week, allrounder Kamindu Mendis, who is an ambidextrous bowler, could come into the middle order to cover for Dhananjaya’s spin. There remains uncertainty over the combination of frontline spinners as they could choose from Lakshan Sandakan and Prabath Jayasuriya, who is also being considered.

Australia have kept the option open of bringing in Glenn Maxwell at No.8 as another spin-bowling option in place of Mitchell Starc, but that will be decided on the morning of the game. That should be the only change.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Oshada Fernando/Kamindu Mendis, 6 Dinesh Chandimal, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Ramesh Mendis, 9 Dunith Wellalage, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Maheesh Theekshana

Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Usman Khawaja, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Cameron Green, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Glenn Maxwell/Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins (capt), 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Mitchell Swepson