As the national selectors schedule to meet on the 14th of November (Thursday) to pick the Sri Lanka Test squad for the upcoming Pakistan tour, ThePapare.com dons on the selector’s hat to name the probable lineup which is most likely to depart the island on the 8th of December.
The two-match series, which is a part of the ICC World Test Championship has not been announced yet officially. However, as per reports, both Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) are in agreement to play the matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi from 11th to 23rd December. If the tour goes ahead, this will be the first Test series in Pakistan since the terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009.
Most of the senior players, who opted out of the limited-overs leg in August/September, have reportedly given their consent to travel to Pakistan for the Tests. Therefore, the selectors will have the all the first-choice players to choose from. Against New Zealand in August at home, a 15-member squad was picked but for this away series, SLC is most likely to name 16 players.
Dimuth Karunaratne is set to return as the captain of the side. However, there is a huge question mark over Karunaratne’s opening partner. Lahiru Thirimanne, who has only scored one Test half-century in 2019 has been at the receiving end of heavy criticism for his failures to see off the new-ball.
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The biggest talking point in the selection meeting would be whether to give another opportunity to Thirimanne or to go with a youngster with in-form duo, Pathum Nissanka and Sangeeth Cooray waiting in the wings.
It is high time Sri Lanka look beyond Thirimanne, at least in the Tests. He averages is 22.64 in 68 innings since making his debut in 2011 is woefully inadequate as an opener. However, Thirimanne’s solitary fifty this year, scored against New Zealand in the most recent series, may well be enough for Asantha De Mel and co to give him another shot.
Both Nissanka and Cooray are yet to play international cricket, but have scored heavily in the domestic circuit and in ‘A’ team tours. In the recent home series against Bangladesh ‘A’, right-handed Nissanka collected 291 runs in 3 innings with a top score of 192, while left-handed Cooray accumulated 210 runs in the same number of innings’ with the highest being 104.
As per reliable sources, there is a school of thought amongst the selectors that Cooray is best suited for Tests rather than Nissanka, who is more of a limited overs player.
Nissanka, who is currently in Bangladesh with the Emerging Team might have to keep knocking more runs in the Emerging Teams Asia Cup and South Asian Games in the coming four weeks. Don’t be surprised if only Cooray is picked for the Pakistan tour instead of them both.
Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva and Niroshan Dickwella should make up the core of the middle order. Kusal Perera, who had a horror series against New Zealand scoring only 24 runs in 4 innings, will face stiff competition from former skipper Dinesh Chandimal for a place in the final XI.
Perera, who played one of the best knocks in Tests for Sri Lanka in Durban, has a tendency to be inconsistent hence the modest 31.13 average, while Chandimal, who warmed the bench against New Zealand despite possessing an average of 41.86, is too good a player to be left-out especially in spin-friendly Pakistan conditions.
If the selectors go ahead in picking an extra opening batsman, the unlucky player to miss out on the Pakistan tour would be Oshada Fernando, who had a stellar debut series in South Africa, but has since been overlooked for Tests.
The spin contingent is most likely to be led by experienced off-spinner Dilruwan Perera in the absence of suspended Akila Dananjaya. Perera will be the key against Pakistan while left-arm orthodox spinner Lasith Embuldeniya and left-arm wrist spinner, Lakshan Sandakan are expected to retain their places in the squad.
Experienced Suranga Lakmal, who was in the bus which was attacked in 2009, is set to share the new-ball with rookie quick Lahiru Kumara with left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando and right-arm seamer Kasun Rajitha making up the pace quartet.
Probable Sri Lanka Test Squad for Pakistan Series – Dimuth Karunaratne (Captain), Lahiru Thirimanne, Sangeeth Cooray, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya De Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha
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