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Alan Gardner at Wantage Road
June 7, 2014
Report : Sri Lanka pacemen vie for Test place
News : Injured Lakmal out of ODI series
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of England and Ireland
Sri Lanka remain hopeful that Suranga Lakmal will be fit for the second Test against England at Headingley, despite a hamstring injury keeping him out of the current squad.
Lakmal suffered the problem during the one-off T20 at the start of the tour but his rehabilitation is understood to be going well back in Sri Lanka and he will undergo a fitness test while the first Test, at Lord's, is ongoing. He could then rejoin the squad for the second Test, which starts four days later.
The make-up of Sri Lanka's seam attack could be key to their chances of upsetting England in the Tests and claiming an unexpected sweep of all three series. Lakmal has emerged alongside Shaminda Eranga as one of Sri Lanka's preferred new-ball bowlers, under the tutelage of Chaminda Vaas, and his absence leaves some uncertainty around the line-up for Lord's.
Eranga has recently been left out of limited-overs competition to preserve him for Tests but he has not played a competitive match since February. He has been Sri Lanka's most successful Test pace bowler since his debut in 2011, with 38 wickets, putting him ahead of the left-armer Chanaka Welegedara and Lakmal.
Welegedara's last Test was in 2012, while Nuwan Kulasekara is only a fitful performer in the longer format, despite his importance to Sri Lanka's white-ball cricket. Nuwan Pradeep, perhaps the liveliest of the seamers on show in Northampton, where the third day was washed out by a heavy morning downpour, is also in contention, despite a modest Test record of eight wickets at 89.25.
Prasanna Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's Test wicketkeeper, said of Lakmal, "If he's fit, he'll definitely come in". Jayawardene had a good view of Welegedara, Pradeep and Dhammika Prasad, the other seamer in the tour party, from behind the stumps at Wantage Road and suggested the competition for places was a good sign for Sri Lanka, as they attempt to add to Test wins on English grounds in 1998 and 2006.
"Lakmal is a huge loss but everyone saw yesterday that our pace bowlers did brilliantly on this track," Jayawardene said. "We have a good pace attack so we can do much better on this tour."
Jayawardene indicated that Sri Lanka want the opportunity to bat again on Sunday, when the forecast is more promising and play will begin half an hour early. The batting line-up has not inconsiderable experience of conditions in England and Jayawardene's only Test century outside the subcontinent came in Cardiff in 2011 - a bittersweet experience, as Sri Lanka collapsed for 82 on the final day to lose by an innings.
Having won the T20 and ODI encounters - the latter amid some rancour - Sri Lanka can claim a psychological edge going into the Tests. With England in transition and expected to field three debutants for the second match running, this series represents a tantalising opportunity for a rare success away from home.
"We all want to do that, I think we have a good chance this time, because we had a good one-day series and morale is high," Jayawardene said. "All the boys did well - fielding, batting, bowling. So we are going for the Test series, 100 percent.
"It's not easy coming from the subcontinent, we have to adapt to the conditions very early, adjust our technique when batting and bowling in these conditions. After the one-day series loss, they are coming hard, we're expecting that."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderickFeeds: Alan Gardner
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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