India v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Mumbai

Ajantha Mendis misses out in Mumbai

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

December 1, 2009

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Click here to hear Kumar Sangakkara's press conference.

Ajantha Mendis has a bowl during a practice session on the eve of the third Test, Mumbai, December 1, 2009
Ajantha Mendis will not play in Mumbai © AFP

Ajantha Mendis has been omitted from Sri Lanka's playing XI for the decisive third Test in Mumbai, with the captain Kumar Sangakkara backing a third seam bowler at the Brabourne Stadium. Mendis was included for the second Test in Kanpur as the management opted for a three-pronged spin attack, but after taking 2 for 162 he has been axed.

"Mendis will have to sit out," said Sangakkara. "We'll probably go with an extra seamer than a spinner on this track, which doesn't look as dull as the one at Ahmedabad or Kanpur."

Nuwan Kulasekara, who has returned to full fitness, appeared to have the edge over Dilhara Fernando for the third pace bowler's spot. "In the last two to three series, [Nuwan] Kulasekara has been very consistent in both ODI and Test," said Sangakkara. "So, quality-wise I think Kulasekara has an edge. Dilhara Fernando is coming into the side after a while but he is bowling well and with a lot of pace. It is a tough choice and we'll have to make that tough choice today."

Sri Lanka's bowling combination that has won them 10 of their last 19 Test matches comprised three seamers. They paid the price in Kanpur, opting for a spin trio, and were thrashed by an innings and 144 runs inside four days. Trailing 1-0 in the three-Test series, it is now a must win situation for the visitors, as they look to avoid their first series loss in the last eight encounters, since losing 2-0 in Australia in 2007-08.

"We had a good one in the first Test, not a great game in the second," said Sangakkara. "It's a case of regrouping and keep doing the basics right. We have the side to beat any team in the world. This is another opportunity for us to do that.

"We created quite a few chances with the new ball in both innings of the first Test, and the second innings of the second Test. Creating opportunities is one thing and taking those chances is another. Those are the things that can turn a game especially when the batsmen go on to make big runs. We've got to make sure that our disciplines are good and our catching is right on the mark from ball one."

Sangakkara defended his key spinner Muttiah Muralitharan on the poor form he had shown in the series so far. "Murali is a bowler who has done so much for Sri Lanka and can sometimes have an off day. That's the way cricket goes. That doesn't mean he is any worse a bowler, he is still our best spinner and in my view the best spinner in the world. When you have that quality in the side you have to back that quality and that ability it's no different for tomorrow. Murali is still the spearhead of our attack and we back him 100% to turn it around and win a match for us."

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