Rangana Herath to miss first Test
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has been ruled out of Sri Lanka's first Test against New Zealand by the hamstring tear he suffered last week, team manager Michael de Zoysa has confirmed. Herath had damaged his upper, inner left thigh while training ahead of the fifth ODI against England, and though team management had initially been hopeful for a quick recovery, he will now likely be out for at least three weeks.
"I think Rangana's struggling to make the second Test as well," de Zoysa said. Even before the injury, Herath had been doubtful for the Boxing Day Test due to personal reasons, and he stayed in Sri Lanka while the team traveled to New Zealand on December 18.
Herath's absence puts Sri Lanka at a significant disadvantage, as the team has been heavily reliant on him for both penetration and control in Tests, over the past three years. He is 2014's top wicket-taker, with 60 scalps at 27.45, and will almost certainly remain atop that list by the year's end. He has also had the heaviest workload of any Test bowler by far this year, with 610.2 overs under his belt - 246 more than anyone else.
Sri Lanka have spin-bowling cover in the squad, in the form of Dilruwan Perera, and uncapped 21-year-old Tharindu Kaushal. Though both are offspinners, they afford the team significant variety: Perera has bowled with plenty of control as Sri Lanka's second spinner this year, taking 36 wickets for himself, while Kaushal has been a more aggressive bowler in domestic cricket.
Sri Lanka play a two-day warm-up match against a New Zealand XI in Queenstown, beginning on December 21. The first Test will played at the newly-accredited Hagley Oval in Christchurch, and the New Year Test will be played in Wellington. Seven ODIs are to follow.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando