June 18, 2001

Sri Lanka switch to pace for Second 'Test'

Having failed with spin at Dambulla, Sri Lanka 'A' are likely to go into the second four-day unofficial 'Test' against Pakistan 'A' beginning at the NCC grounds on Tuesday, with pace.

Sri Lanka are expected to include three fast bowlers on the pace oriented NCC pitch which leaves room for only two spinners. They had three spinners operating at Dambulla.

Two of the fast bowlers who are likely to make up the trio are Akalanka Ganegama and Thilina Amarasinghe, who took 77 wickets between them bowling 478 overs to enable their club NCC emerge Super League champions.

Knowing what the conditions at the NCC is like, both bowlers are likely to get the nod along with Suresh Perera, the SSC quickie who is coming back after injury. This would leave the spin department in the hands of skipper Thilan Samaraweera and left-arm spinner Sajeewa Weerakoon. Chandana Samarasinghe, the other leg-spinner may be the unlucky one. Samaraweera took ten wickets in the Dambulla Test and looked the only bowler who could win a match for his side.

Although the pitch is expected to help the fast bowlers, it is in all probability a fair one, and will also give assistance to the spinners later in the match. The batsmen with the correct temperament and technique will score runs on it.

Sri Lanka 'A's batting has been strengthened by the inclusion of the free-hitting opener Avishka Gunawardene, and middle-order batsmen Tillekeratne Dilshan and Indika de Saram - all Test players. Dilshan will take over the wicket-keeping duties from Kumar Sangakkara who kept wicket in the drawn first 'Test'. Opener Dhammika Sudarshana, Michael Vandort and Chimera Silva retain their batting spots for another game.

Left-hander Gunawardene, unless Pakistan get him early, has the capability of tearing into the bowling. His style of play is more akin to the one-day mould. He cracked a half-century off 54 balls for Hatton National Bank on Sunday in the Mercantile knockout one-day competition.

Also in excellent form in that match were Silva with an unbeaten 96 off 112 balls and Vandort, who made a fighting 53.

The NCC pitch will definitely test the skills of these batsmen against the Pakistan seam attack, which bowled superbly on the lifeless Dambulla pitch.

In helpful conditions Irfan Fazil and Yasir Arafat could be a handful. Pakistan will sorely miss tall paceman Shabbir Ahmed who is recovering from a groin strain that prevented him from bowling in the Sri Lanka 'A' second innings at Dambulla. If there is bounce on the pitch, leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who took seven wickets in the first 'Test', will exploit it to the full.

The teams:
Sri Lanka 'A' (from):
Thilan Samaraweera (captain), Avishka Gunawardene, Dhammika Sudarshana, Michael Vandort, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Indika de Saram, Chimera Silva, Suresh Perera, Sajeewa Weerakoon, Thilina Amarasinghe, Akalanka Ganegama, Chandana Samarasinghe, Jeevantha Kulatunga, Gayan Wijekoon, Dinusha Fernando.
Pakistan 'A' (from): Hasan Raza (captain), Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umer, Faisal Naved, Qaiser Abbas, Misbah-ul-Haq, Humayun Farhat, Yasir Arafat, Irfan Fazil, Danish Kaneria, Kashif Raza, Azam Hussain, Salman Butt, Najaf Shah, Shabbir Ahmed.
Umpires: Tyronne Wijewardene and Lalith Jayasundera, Match Referee: Graeme Labrooy.