Two teams at two extreme ends of the spectrum clash in the final Test of the Sri Lanka-India series at the picturesque Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, starting Saturday (August 12). In fact, arguably the only thing international about the series so far has been the grounds, and the beautiful Pallekele Stadium presents a near-perfect end to the series.
If only the same could be said about the cricket, too. Sri Lanka have been a side that has struggled to compete over the course of the last two Tests, and their opponents, India, have already run away with the series. On a batting beauty at Galle, India thumped them by 304 runs, while on a rank-turner at the SSC in Colombo was another massive innings win for Virat Kohli’s side. The hosts have struggled with a spate of injuries to key players, and have been further dented by the unavailability of Rangana Herath and Nuwan Pradeep, Sri Lanka’s pace and spin leads, for the third Test.
Everything points to another rout by the Indians, but Sri Lanka will walk in knowing they made their much-fancied opposition toil hard in the second innings at the SSC, and would hope that was a turn of the tide.
For India, it will just be a matter of doing more of the same since they stepped foot in Sri Lanka. Their batting looks in great form, having amassed 600 runs in both Tests, while their bowlers have followed up and delivered the victories. They are on the cusp of a historic away-series whitewash, and will hope to do so with another clinical performance.
When: Sri Lanka vs India, 3rd Test, Starts August 12, 10:00 AM Local Time
Where: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele
What to expect: There was rain two days before the game, and it resulted in both teams cancelling their pre-game practice sessions on Friday. There could be more rain on the cards over the Test match. The pitch, which had been under covers overnight, underwent another drastic change a day before the game, with the greenish tinge slowly giving way to more brown. The ground staff used hard brushes and the mower to take away what grass there was left on the pitch. The track looks a hard one, and the toss could once again play a decisive factor.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka are without two main bowlers in Pradeep, ruled out with a hamstring injury, and Herath, with a back strain, and they will have to make a host of changes in order to fill those gaps. They should also do away with their ploy of playing just the lone pacer, like they did at the SSC. They have brought in two more pacers in Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Gamage for this game, and the duo would fight for the pacers’ slots along with Vishwa Fernando and Lahiru Kumara. On the spin front, Malinda Pushpakumara should give way to Lakshan Sandakan after a less-than-impressive debut. Lahiru Thirimanne is also expected to return to the squad, taking the place of Dhananjaya de Silva.
Probable XI: Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne/Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando/Lahiru Kumara, Lahiru Gamage/Dushmantha Chameera
India: India have relatively fewer headaches than Sri Lanka, but the suspension of the world’s number one allrounder and bowler, Ravindra Jadeja, would have thrown a spanner in the works. Kuldeep Yadav should come in for the left-armer. There is no change expected to the rest of the line-up, but with the series done and dusted, don’t be surprised if Kohli and Co. give the bench-warmers a chance.
Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami
Did you know?
– If India manage to win the third Test, it will be the first instance of them winning three Tests in a series away from home since 1968. Australia (in 2004) remains the only side to beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in a series in Sri Lanka.
– If both Laskshan Sandakan and Kuldeep Yadav make it to the respective playing XIs, it will be the first instance of two chinaman bowlers playing for the opposing teams in a Test match since 2004.
– The last time Sri Lanka played a home series (2+ Tests) without any bowler taking 10 wickets in the series was against South Africa in 2004. Their two leading wicket takers of the series – Nuwan Pradeep (6) & Rangana Herath (5) – have been ruled out of the third Test.