Pallekele awaits its Test debut
Match factsDecember 1-5
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)
This series was supposed to be a mismatch but it has turned out to be a well-contested tussle, though marred by unfavourable weather. West Indies gave Sri Lanka a bloody nose in Galle where they enforced the follow-on, but were at the receiving end of an improved performance from the hosts whose batsmen and spinners dominated the rain-affected Colombo Test. The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, the venue for the decider, and one being groomed for the World Cup, is untested at the highest level, though it has staged a fair share of domestic games earlier this year, sporting a pitch that has shown a tendency to favour batting.
Sri Lanka, ranked third in the world, will face the pressure of achieving a result they were expected to at the start of the series, and undermine any West Indian hopes of a revival under Darren Sammy's leadership. They made three changes to their squad in the previous Test - turning to the experience of Nuwan Kulaskerara and Rangana Herath, and bringing in seamer Suranga Lakmal - and each paid off.
For West Indies, the spin pair of Shane Shillingford and Sulieman Benn were below-par, and the onus fell on fast bowler Kemar Roach. Against a more challenging attack, the batting failed to measure up, though Darren Bravo's delightful 80 was a bright spot. The hosts appear to have hit the right notes leading into the decider and weather permitting - there are light showers forecast for the next four days - anything short of a win would be a disappointment.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
West Indies: DDLDL
Sri Lanka: DDLDW
Watch out for...
Darren Sammy: His stint as captain seems to have begun on a promising note with the results exceeding expectations against a formidable opponent, but his individual form has been a worry. Sammy was not a regular feature of the Test side prior to being thrust into his new role, and his performance in the series so far suggests why that may have been the case. He's made just two runs in two innings, taken two wickets, and dropped catches. He needs to step up in all departments.
Ajantha Mendis: On a track that his captain expects to break, Mendis potentially could prove a handful. He troubled the West Indies with his variations in Colombo and if supported with an even more helpful pitch, the challenge is out for West Indies' experienced campaigners in Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul as well as their younger crop in hostile conditions.
Kumar Sangakkara said his team would consider making a change in the spin attack, depending on the conditions. Offspinner Suraj Randiv was left out of the second Test but could be preferred if the track promises some extra bounce.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Tharanga Paranavitana, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Rangana Herath / Suraj Randiv, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Suranga Lakmal
Given the manner in which the spinners performed in the second Test, West Indies could be tempted to bring back Andre Russell to partner Roach with the new ball. Will they drop Shillingford and go in with three seamers? Or will the nature of the pitch take precedence over past performance?
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 (capt), 9 Sulieman Benn, 10 Shane Shillingford / Andre Russell, 11 Kemar Roach
Pitch and conditions
Sangakkara said he expected the pitch to break and assist his spinners, and hoped it would offer more bounce and pace. However, the weatherthreatens to play a prominent role in the decider as well.
Stats and Trivia
- The Pallekele International Cricket Stadium will be the 104th Test venue and Sri Lanka's eighth
- Sri Lanka haven't lost a Test series at home since 2006, and have drawn just one home series in that period - their previous one against India
- Sri Lanka has never staged a three-Test series where all games have ended in draws
"There is nothing that you can do about the weather but at the same time we've come up here hoping to start reconstruction of West Indies cricket."
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson hopes the weather will permit a full contest
"Hopefully it will have more bounce and pace so that batsmen can play shots even on the first day. Other than that, I think, it will help all the bowlers. We are expecting it to break up sooner and help our spinners."
Kumar Sangakkara on the Pallekele pitch
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo