Dimuth Ruled Out From First Test
By Mustaq Sydeen
Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunarathne was ruled out from the first Test against England today in Galle since he is yet to recover from the thumb injury sustained during the second Test in South Africa.
Ceylon Today reliably learns Dimuth was ruled out at the eleventh hour and Dinesh Chandimal is now likely to lead the team in Dimuth’s absence.
Heading into the series, Sri Lanka is back in action after their recent two Test nightmare series in South Africa, where they not only lost by massive margins but also lost several of their players to injury. Angelo Mathews, who injured his hamstring in the semi-final of the Lanka Premier League, and Dinesh Chandimal, who was injured in South Africa, will be part of the playing XI today.
Earlier, during the Pre-Match Conference Dimuth Karunarathne commenting on the injuries and fitness levels of players said:
“Fitness plays a major part in cricket.We believe that due to COVID we couldn’t train well, but that is not an excuse for not maintaining our own fitness level. Being professional cricketers, we should know how to prepare ourselves before a tour. After experiencing injuries during the South African tour, we know what went wrong for us. We are now mainly concentrating on fitness, and before the West Indies tour, we will conduct fitness tests on each and every player before selecting the squad.”
However, former skipper Angelo Mathews’ inclusion in the squad will be a major boost for the hosts given the vast amount of experience he has. Angelo is also just short of 19 runs to complete his 6,000 Test runs.
Kusal Mendis, who had a horrid tour of South Africa, is likely to make way for incoming batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, who played a handy role in the South Africa series. In bowling, the spinners can do the trick for the hosts on the spinner friendly sub-continent tracks, and they are likely to go in with three spinners, the seasoned off spinner Dilruwan Perera, slow left-arm orthodox Lasith Embuldeniya and right-arm wrist spinner Wanindu Hasaranga, who is quite handy with the bat as well. Wanindu who made his ODI debut at the Galle International Stadium, will also bring a positive vibe if he could contribute with his bat, too.
“We are looking to play our normal, fearless game. I think their spinners are just as dangerous this time. Leach is still there and he’s the man who did a lot of work in the last series here.It is unfortunate that Moeen Ali, who did a good job, can’t play the series, but Dom Bess has done a good job for England as well, so we never underestimate their bowlers. We always knew what they are capable of in their bowling line-up, but we know what the conditions are, so we have a few plans against them,” Karunarathne said on the eve of the series.
England, on the other hand, have been dealt a big blow with all-rounder Moeen Ali testing positive for the coronavirus and being ruled out at least for the first Test. Jack Leach and Dom Bess will be their main spinners, with Root and debutant Lawrence to support them. Jonny Bairstow will bat at number three, while Sam Curran will be their lone all-rounder.
“There has been quite a lot of rain over the last few days so we want to make sure we are clear on the starting 11, and make sure we have the best tools for these conditions and the surface,” Root told reporters on Wednesday.
“Throughout the winter (Test tours to Sri Lanka and India) we will exploit pace as a tactic in these conditions, whether it is reverse swing or a more hostile spell of bowling. It can be very effective. With the weather around, seam might play a bigger part than has been spoken about previously.”
The touring party is without Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, in order to allow them to have a proper rest unmarred by bubble fatigue in the lead-up to England’s much anticipated tour of India just after the Sri Lanka series.
England’s permanent opener Rory Burns is on paternity leave and will miss the series. To add to their woes, Chris Woakes is also likely to miss the first Test since he will need more time to settle in the middle after spending 7 extra days in quarantine after he was identified as a close contact of Moeen Ali.
On their last visit to the island in 2018, England won the series 3-0, but this time they have question marks about the make-up of the Test team they will need to answer before the series in India begins in February.
With the pitch likely to be tailor-made for the spinners, the series will be dominated by the team that performs better in the spin department.
The probable playing XI of both teams:
Sri Lanka - Oshada Fernando, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandima (C), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Vishwa Fernando
England - Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Dan Lawrence, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad/James Anderson.