With the Test tour of South Africa, Sri Lanka will be resuming international cricket after the outbreak of the coronavirus. The first Test of the two-match series will begin on December 26 in Centurion.
Sri Lanka last played the international series against West Indies in March at their home. Since then, they haven’t played a bilateral series. Moreover, they last played the Test series in January that too against Zimbabwe.
After the nine-month-long hiatus, Sri Lanka players will play their first Test series in South Africa. Being out of international cricket for so long, this can be a tough series for the Dimuth Karunaratne-led side. But Sri Lankans are coming off after playing over a month-long Lanka Premier League (LPL) 2020 which would have been a good practice platform for them.
Notably, Sri Lankans won the Test series last year in Proteas. They can repeat the same stint this year because South Africans are going through a huge turmoil.
Here, let’s take a look at how Sri Lanka’s playing XI can shape in for the first Test:
Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne had a disappointing last Test tour of South Africa. In four innings, he scored just 86 runs. Moreover, in the last Test series against Zimbabwe, he could not even score a half-century.
The 32-year-old is also not featured in the LPL and will play after 10 months gap. It is surely a cause of concern for the Sri Lanka team but the skipper will get another chance to prove his mettle in this series.
The right-hand batsman Oshada Fernando made the debut in the Test in the last tour of South Africa. He struggled in the first three innings but went on to score 75* in the last innings against South Africa.
In the last tour against Zimbabwe, he scored 21*, 4, 44 and 47 runs in the respectively. But it will be interesting to look that he will in his good form or not because he has also not played an international series since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The 25-year-old Kusal Mendis also toured last year in South Africa. In the first three innings, he struggled to build up a big innings but in the fourth innings, he scored unbeaten 84 runs.
He was also impressive in the recently concluded LPL 2020 which is a big positive for Sri Lanka. The hopes will be high from him to again guide them to victory.
Although Dinesh Chandimal didn’t tour to South Africa last year, Dinesh Chandimal is likely to be given the place considering he had a decent Lanka Premier League. The wicketkeeper-batsman featured in the Zimbabwe tour but could not get prove his case. He will look to capitalise on the opportunity which he is likely to be given in the South Africa tour.
Dasun Shanka is likely to return to the Test side considering his impressive performance in ODIs and T20Is. From 2016-201, he featured in three Tests but could not get runs on boards and was dropped. But the 29-year-old all-rounder is a good batting and bowling option. He is likely to make a comeback in the extended format.
Dhananjaya de Silva:
In the New Zealand tour in 2019, Dhananjaya de Silva scored an unbeaten century. He continued his good form against Pakistan at their home, scoring another century. In the last Test tour of Zimbabwe, he scored half-century and 42 runs in two innings. Although he didn’t have a good tour of South Africa last year, Sri Lanka will retain him in the playing XI.
Kusal Perera was exceptional in the last tour of South Africa. He scored half-century and century in the two matches to single-handedly get runs on the board.
Although he was not in the Test squad against Zimbabwe for the two-match series, he is undoubtedly going to be in the playing XI against Proteas considering he is familiar with their conditions and was the main architect for their win.
The spin bowling allrounder Wanindu Hasaranga is likely to make his Test debut in this series. He has impressed with his spin bowling in the LPL although he was not as effective with the bat.
Hasaranga has played in 15 ODI and 13 T20Is. The 23-year-old will be handed over the Test cap in Proteas.
Lahiru Kumara is not unknown to South African conditions. In 2017, he played their two Test matches and picked 11 wickets. But he was not in the last year’s tour.
Nevertheless, the fast bowler Kumara will get his place in the playing XI.
The veteran pacer Suranga Lakmal has been impressive through a domestic season of Sri Lanka this year, registering a couple of four-wicket hauls.
He has also a four-wicket haul in his name in last year’s tour of South Africa. Undoubtedly, he will be playing the first Test against South Africa.
Last year in South Africa, Vishwa Fernando ran through South Africa’s batting line up, registering two four-wicket hauls. Overall, he picked 12 wickets in the two-Test matches. Sri Lanka will want him to replicate a similar performance this year as well.