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November 22, 2010
Match factsNovember 23-27
Sri Lanka were grateful for some assistance from the weather in Galle after West Indies produced their finest overseas performance since beating South Africa in Port Elizabeth three years ago. The visitors were inspired by Chris Gayle's monumental 333, a fantastic innings which began as a destructive opening-day onslaught before he methodically consolidated the team's position.
And if anyone thought Sri Lanka would the pile up 600 themselves that was dashed as Kemar Roach and Shane Shillingford led a committed bowling display which ended with the home side three runs short of saving the follow-on. However, time was already becoming tight and once Sri Lanka edged into the lead they could breathe a little easier. But they have been put on notice: West Indies aren't here just to make up the numbers.
Sri Lanka's major issue is with their bowling attack, not entirely surprising given they have lost Muttiah Muralitaran's 800 wickets. Ajantha Mendis collected six in Galle, but most of them came long after Gayle had set up a huge total, while Suraj Randiv wasn't particularly threatening on a docile surface. Aravinda de Silva, the chairman of the selectors, was exasperated when talking about the problems trying to find pace bowlers with particular mention of Lasith Malinga who is being saved for one-day and Twenty20 action.
West Indies, though, have issues of their own after Shillingford, the offspinner, was reported to ICC for a suspect action. He is still allowed to play pending the investigation, and has received the backing of the coach Ottis Gibson, but it is hardly the ideal preparation for a Test match when a bowler knows all eyes will be on his elbow.
However, given the travails of West Indies in recent years to be entering the second Test of an away series still on level terms isn't an achievement to take lightly. If Gayle continues his form and gets the same support from his team-mates as at Galle then this series can remain an unexpectedly tight contest.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Sri Lanka DLDWL
West Indies DLDLL
Watch out for...
Ajantha Mendis made a belated mark on the opening Test as he ran through West Indies' lower order. While the late spell didn't change the course of the innings it was a warning of the impact he can have on new batsmen who have yet to settle and emphasises the importance, as shown by Gayle, of batsmen not throwing their wickets away when set. Mendis' success rate has slowed since the heady days early in his career when no batsman appeared able to pick him, but following the retirement of Muralitharan it's time for him to show he can lift his game and become the leader of Sri Lanka's spin attack.
You almost had to rub your eyes watching Darren Bravo bat on his Test debut. The similarities to a certain BC Lara were just uncanny. From his profile, to his stance, then the back lift and the flowing cover drive. There have been players who model themselves on their heroes, but Bravo has taken it to a new level. The key, though, is that Bravo can really play. He has long-since been earmarked for an international career and a debut innings of 58 at No. 3 was a fine way to start. Endless comparisons with Lara won't help his development, but he looks like a cricketer who can have a major part in West Indies' future.
Sri Lanka will have two new quick bowlers as Dammika Prasad and Thilan Thushara were both omitted from the squad. Shaminda Eranga is an uncapped paceman, but the selectors may opt for the experience of Dilhara Fernando.
Sri Lanka (possible) 1 Tharanga Paranavitana, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Thilan Samaraweera, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Suraj Randiv, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Dilhara Fernando.
Despite the issues over his action, Shillingford appears set to play and be partnered by Sulieman Benn who is now available following suspension. Andre Russell is the likely man to make way which means the new ball will be in the hands of either Darren Sammy or Dwayne Bravo.
West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Adrian Barath, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Brendan Nash, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Carlton Baugh (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Sulieman Benn, 10 Shane Shillingford, 10 Kemar Roach
Pitch and conditions
The pitch is an unknown quantity for everyone having been relaid ahead of the World Cup and this is the first first-class match it will be used for. In the days leading into the Test it was on the damp side, which suggests some early movement for the quicks, but the issue with new surfaces is whether they can last the duration.
"We expect to play a lot better from ball one of the game, to make sure we are focused on our game plans and executing them."
Kumar Sangakkara is confident his team will be in better shape for Colombo.
"Sri Lanka are one of the best teams in the world. We are expecting them to come back strong. I hope they will come hard on us. But we have prepared sufficiently."
Darren Sammy is ready for a backlash from the hosts.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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