GALLE – Rain might hold the key to the Sobers-Tissera two-match Test series between West Indies and Sri Lanka that starts about midnight tonight at Galle.
Sri Lanka, having lost back-to-back series against Pakistan and India, will look to quickly bounce back into winning ways. West Indies were beaten by Australia at home in their last series and with a few fresh faces in their squad will look to bounce back as well.
Sri Lanka have hosted West Indies nine times since 1993. They are yet to win a Test match in Sri Lanka. The South Asian islanders have won five games and four have been ended as draws.
Sri Lanka will start as favourites with an experienced side but the Windies are capable of creating a major upset though they faltered badly in the warm-up game.
With only eight Tests, new West Indies skipper Jason Holder is one of the most inexperienced men to captain an international cricket team.
“I’m not too disheartened. It was just a practice game where we felt we needed to spend some time. Seeing how the batsmen have been moving in the last few days, they look very, very confident,” he said of their performance in the three-day match.
As always Sri Lanka face monsoon rains in October which will most likely spoil the party. In 2010 players had to stay more indoors than outdoors. The lead-up to this Test series has also been hampered by rain and weather forecasts suggest that heavy rains and thunderstorms are expected through the five days and many of the sessions could be washed out.
The Galle pitch will always provide loads of assistance to the spinners but due to regular showers, it might change a bit this time.
“This pitch is a little different from the last two we had here. Those pitches had turned from day one. I don’t think this will turn from day one, but you can never predict what a pitch will do 100 per cent,” Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews said in the pre-match press conference today.
Mathews is the backbone of Sri Lanka’s batting and captaincy has done wonders for his consistency. Mathews the captain averages 68.80 as against his overall career average of 52.06.
Openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunarathne will need to put up noteworthy performances if they want to be long-term solutions for Sri Lanka while struggling Lahiru Thirimanne will have to perform in order justify his place in the team. Milinda Siriwardana’s unbeaten 105 against West Indies in the tour match at Colombo has guaranteed his debut in Galle.
In the last couple of series, Sri Lanka seamers Dhammika Prasad and company have made good beginnings but have struggled in the latter stages. The form of their two spinners Tharindu Kaushal and Rangana Herath is going to
West Indies will depend on pacer Kemar Roach who has experience of bowling in Sri Lankan conditions and will also look to Devendra Bishoo’s leg-spin to get them wickets.
Holder will look to senior batsman Marlon Samuels to lead by example and after a tough series against the Aussies, he will hope opener Kraigg Brathwaite finds immediate batting form.
But first they will have to get their balance right. The West Indies would perhaps love to play Carlos Brathwaite but that might mean one of the batsmen being omitted as Roach, Holder, Jerome Taylor and Bishoo look certain to play.
Squads – Angelo Mathews (captain), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kaushal Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Kusal Mendis, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Tharindu Kaushal, Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera.
West Indies: Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite (vice-captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Rajendra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Denesh Ramdin, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Jomel Warrican.