COLOMBO: When the Zimbabweans arrived in Colombo, the talk at Maitland Place was to try out some young talents in the one off Test ahead of an hectic season. But those grand plans have been set aside as Sri Lanka named a full strength squad for the only Test that gets underway at R. Premadasa Stadium on Friday. The reason being Sri Lanka’s shock series defeat in the ODIs that has now put them under pressure to qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019.
Less than 24 hours after defeat in the last ODI, Angelo Mathews stepped down as captain from all three formats although the board had given him the backing for the next two years. Dinesh Chandimal, who has already captained the ODI and T-20 side, thus becomes Sri Lanka’s 15th Test captain. R Premadasa Stadium is hosting its first Test match in four years. This was the venue that produced a World Record 952 for six when Sri Lanka played against India 20 years ago.
This will be Zimbabwe’s first Test in eight months – their first away Test match since November 2014 – and leading into the game without even a warm-up game will be quite hard for the tourists. However, they will be a confident unit following their stunning series win earlier this week.
Zimbabwe haven’t played any Test cricket this year. Last year, they played four Tests and lost all four by heavy margins – more than 200 runs. Sri Lanka have their problems of own having suffered a humiliating first ever Test defeat to Bangladesh in March this year. Prior to that they were whitewashed 3-0 in South Africa.
Sri Lanka will decide between Lakshan Sandakan and Dilruwan Perera to back left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. The off-spin of Perera is likely to get the nod ahead of the left-arm wrist spin of Sandakan. Lahiru Kumara will share the new ball with Suranga Lakmal, ahead of Dushmantha Chameera.
As for Zimbabwe, Carl Mumba is nursing a knee injury and remains doubtful for the game. Zimbabwe had lot of spin options available during the ODIs and captain Graeme Cremer said all those options will be used during the Test match as well.
Dinesh Chandimal will become the 15th Sri Lankan Test captain. His omission from the ODI squad attracted much criticism from former captains Arjuna Ranatunga and Kumar Sangakkara. Sri Lanka have been quite formidable at RPS having lost only one of the eight games played here. The batsmen enjoy the conditions here the most. Lack of experience in Test cricket could be a huge problem for Zimbabwe. Only Hamilton Masakadza has played more than 30 Tests for them. There is no other player in that squad who has played 20 Test matches.
“The Zimbabweans have played good cricket in this tour so far. They have particularly handled our spinners well. But the good thing for us is that our Test squad has some experience when it comes to spin bowling. Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera are both back. We are very confident about our spin bowling department,” said Dinesh Chandimal.
“We’ve got a few inexperienced players, but even those who have played less than 20 Test matches, they have played a lot of ODIs. So that still counts as experience for us. Someone like Hamilton would be good to have out there. If you take then Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza, they have also played a lot of ODIs. It’s just about adapting to the longer format,” said Grame Cremer.