As the first class match against Northamptonshire is auguring well for Sri Lanka ahead of the Tests against England, still there are three slots in the test side to be filled. Sri Lanka’s batting order has the experience of Sangakkara and Mahela while the young guns Thirimanne and Kaushal Silva fired against the county side, Northamptonshire. Bowling looked incisive with the fast men running through the top order of the oppositions.
Though the Test side looks settled for the most part, there are three conundrums rankling the Sri Lankan Test side. One of them is a perennial issue for Sri Lanka since the detachment of the doyen pair of Jayasuriya and Attapattu. Next is the result of too many wicket keepers in the side and the retirement of Dilshan. The last one was colluded by the injury to Suranga Lakmal.
Sri Lanka will have to decide whether or not to persist with Dimuth Karunaratne at the opening slot notwithstanding his bouts of failures in the recent tests and the first class fixture against Northamptonshire. Eventhough Sri Lanka would plausibly want to give Dimuth another chance at the top, I would not be surprised if Chandimal gets a chance instead of Dimuth Karunaratne. If Chandimal plays then he or Thirimanne would open the batting. I would prefer Chandimal to open, hence negating the historical weakness of Sri Lankan south paws against the balls that swing away from them.
Should Dimuth Karunaratne play as the opener along with Kaushal Silva, then Chandimal will have to compete with Prasanna Jayawardane for the Wicket Keeper batsman role in the team. Though Chandimal is a better bat than Prasanna Jayawardane, there is no one in the world who can compete with Prasanna’s ingenuity behind the stumps. Prasanna’s brilliance with the bat in the last tour to England which earned him the Man of the Series for Sri Lanka would prompt the management to look at Prasanna Jayawardane ahead of Chandimal for that number 7 spot.
The other option for the number 7 slot would be to play Dilruwan Perera as a spin bowling all-rounder, since he excelled with both bat and bowl in the game against Northamptonshire. Though it will slightly weaken the batting, it will give the additional spin bowling option to Sri Lanka, which Sri Lanka is in desperate need of after Dilshan’s retirement. Sri Lanka finds a lot of difficulty in finding that someone who can provide respite to the main bowlers by bowling some useful spells in the middle. And, when the ambient light is less conducive for cricket they would not need to look forward to Sangakkara or Jayawardane for providing the slow bowling options.
The other problem is something that has been haunting Sri Lanka eternally and just when it seemed that Chaminda Vass has finally exorcised it, it returned in the form an injury to Lakmal. Sri Lankan pace bowling trio of Eranga, Lakmal and Pradeep performed exceptionally well and stayed fit against Pakistan and just when the fans were content about the fast bowling prospects in England Lakmal broke down. Chanaka Welegedara was rushed to the squad and Dhammika Prasad will rival with Welegedara and Kulasekara for that third spot. Since Sri Lanka is most likely to play Eranga and Pradeep, the management might opt to go with the left armer for variety. But given the less stable lower order batting Dhammika Prasad might get the nod ahead of Welegedara for his batting skills. He hurried the batsman with his pace against England in the only ODI he played in the ODI series and including him might give that menacing look to the rather reticent bowling lineup. Though there is a chance of playing Kulasekara to provide thriftiness to bowling the presence of Mathews might impede his selection into the team.
Given the slow nature of Lords Pitch in comparison to other wickets in England, Sri Lanka might sometimes look to play two spinners which to me is unlikely. But if they choose to, Dilruwan Perera will grab that spot, further strengthening the batting.
Ideally I would want this XI to play:
|Lahiru Thirimanne||/Dinesh Chandimal|
|Lahiru Thirimanne||/Dinesh Chandimal|
|Angelo Mathews (C)|
|Prasanna Jayawardane (WK)|