Sri Lanka begin life after Murali
Match FactsMonday, July 26, 2010
Start time 1000 (0430 GMT)
The Big Picture
The tributes are done with, the celebrations have concluded and the perfect farewell consigned to memory. Come Monday, Sri Lanka will begin a new phase in Test cricket without the player who decisively turned its fortune as a Test-playing nation. They are also without an injured Lasith Malinga, who, with Muttiah Muralitharan, shared 15 wickets in the ten-wicket victory in Galle; that 1-0 lead, despite a day lost to rain, becomes all the more significant in the context of the series with both teams fielding weakened bowling line-ups in Colombo.
Ajantha Mendis had proved a menace to India's batsmen on their previous Test tour to Sri Lanka, but has since been handled with relative ease. Though his six-for in the tour game is some encouragement, India's batsmen have perhaps the best opportunity in the series to fight back. Their bowlers, however, face a bigger challenge. It was India's depleted seam attack that had raised the most concerns ahead of the series, but more dispiriting, in addition to the famed batting, was the wicketless and unthreatening performance of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha on a turning track in Galle.
At a fortress of sorts for Sri Lanka - they haven't lost a Test at the SSC in six years - and in conditions traditionally favourable to the batting side, India's defence of the No.1 ranking, which they achieved by beating the same team last year, will face a stiff test. If Sri Lanka win or draw the game, they remain in contention to displace India, depending on what transpires in the third Test. In the unlikely event of an Indian surprise, the visitors will retain their position, an achievement that will stand out given the limitations they began the tour with.
Sri Lanka: WLLDW
Players to watch out for
Mahela Jayawardene: Sri Lanka's new vice-captain returns to his favourite venue. He averages 79.58 in 22 Tests at the SSC. His prolific run at the ground began against India, when he scored 242 in the Asian Test Championship in 1999. He has four centuries, including a triple, and four fifties in his last nine innings here - an intimidating prospect for a team searching for 20 wickets.
Harbhajan Singh: Leading an inexperienced bowling attack has been a huge responsibility to bear, and that has been made harder by Sri Lanka's formidable batting line-up. Sri Lanka have handled Harbhajan better than most, and more so in home conditions, but the extra bounce expected at the SSC could add a bit more potency to his bowling.
MS Dhoni, India's captain, said Gautam Gambhir has a niggle in the knee and the team would take a final call on him in the evening or Monday morning. He also hinted at a 3-1 pace-spin bowling combination if they want to bowl first, suggesting Munaf Patel was in with a chance. If India decide to bat, he said they could go in with two seamers and two spinners.
India (possible): 1 Gautam Gambhir/ M Vijay, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Yuvraj Singh, 7 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 8 Ishant Sharma, 9 Abhimanyu Mithun, 10 Harbhajan Singh, 11 Pragyan Ojha/Amit Mishra/ Munaf Patel.
Dilhara Fernando is likely to replace Malinga, while Mendis takes Murali's place. Sri Lanka have two other pace options in Dammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep who didn't feature in the first Test.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Tharanga Paranavitana, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Dilhara Fernando, 11 Chanaka Welegedara.
Pitch and conditions
Dhoni said the pitch was greener than the one in Galle and expected more bounce. There is a possibility of thunderstorms on the first four days of the Test, though amid similar forecasts in Galle the weather held firm for the bulk of the game, long enough to produce a result.
Stats and Trivia
- India's previous two games at the SSC both ended in innings defeats. Their only win here came in 1993, the last time they won a Test series in Sri Lanka.
- The team batting first has lost nine out of 19 games played at the SSC in the last ten years, and won six.
- Virender Sehwag has scored the most runs among Indian batsmen against Ajantha Mendis - 113 off 112 balls without being dismissed. Mendis has had the most success against VVS Laxman, dismissing him five times and averaging 20. He has also dismissed Rahul Dravid on four occasions.
- In 13 matches not involving Muttiah Muralitharan since 2000, Sri Lanka have won five games, lost four and drawn four. The most recent were against Pakistan in July last year.
"We are focused on winning the series. We have bowlers who are looking for a chance to make a mark for themselves. This is their opportunity."
Kumar Sangakkara looks at the bright side of having a weaker attack for the SSC Test.
"If we lose the No.1 ranking, we will try to get it back. We just have to play well and the rankings will take care of itself."
MS Dhoni isn't fixated on retaining the top spot in Tests.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo