February 13, 2002

Sri Lanka A look for clean sweep against Kenya

Saadi Thawfeeq

Whitewashing visiting cricket sides is becoming quite a common feature with Sri Lankan national teams and Sri Lanka A are looking for a three-nil clean sweep when they take on Kenya in the final unofficial Test at Dambulla on Thursday.

Jayasuriya and Co. completed 3-0 whitewashes against West Indies and Zimbabwe in recently concluded series. Chandana's boys have taken a stranglehold in the series against Kenya with two convincing wins in the first two Tests which has given them an unassailable 2-0 lead.

"I think it is very important for us that we win against Kenya here," said Sri Lanka 'A' senior coach and manager Roshan Mahanama.

"Kenya are a better one-day side and if we can thrash them like we did in the first two Tests it will boost our morale and give us a psychological advantage over them for the one-day series," he said.

The disappointing aspect from Kenya's viewpoint is that there is no continuity in their batting line up which has seen only one individual perform in each innnings.

In the first Test, it was Ravindu Shah's knock of 94 that held their first innings together, while Steve Tikolo stood out in the second innings making a bright 65.

The story was very much the same at Matara, where Shah once again top scored in the first innings with 106, and Tikolo followed in the second innings with 117.

None of the other recognised batsmen have been able to build big partnerships with Shah and Tikolo.

To get down to the cold statistics, Kenya's highest partnership in the series so far is 59 for the fourth wicket between Shah and Hitesh Modi in the first innings of the first 'Test'.

In contrast, Sri Lanka 'A's success has largely been on their ability to build on big partnerships which has seen them run up totals of 414 and 574-6 declared.

The other factor, which weighs heavily against Kenya is the inability shown by their batsmen to cope with spin on surfaces, which encourage turn. Eleven wickets fell to spin at the Sara Stadium and 17 at Matara.

To add to their woes Kenya are leaving their options of picking their final squad until the morning of the match because of injuries to key players Thomas Odoyo, an all-rounder of repute and Mohammad Sheikh, their left-arm orthodox slow bowler.

Odoyo is still recovering from a right hamstring injury, which prevented him from batting in both innings at Matara. Indications are that he may be rested for this 'Test' in order to have him fully fit for the three-match one-day series starting on February 20.

Sheikh dislocated a finger in his left-hand at fielding practice on Tuesday and is receiving treatment for it.

Kenya's manager said that because of the injuries the team will not be finalised until the morning and that all 16 players in the squad were available for selection.

Sri Lanka 'A' on the other hand have less worries with hard-hitting opener Avishka Gunawardana having recovered from the 'flu that laid him low at Matara and likely to play here.

Upekha Fernando who stepped in for Gunawardana and scored an impressive 86 off 98 balls is expected to open with Gunawardana relegating Ian Daniel to the reserves.

The selectors have brought in fast bowler Dulip Liyanage to replace Prabath Nissanka in the 14 for Dambulla, but the final choice of whether to go with seam or spin will only be decided on the morning because of the pitch getting damp due to some rain falling over in the past two days.

Ruchira Perera and Pulasthi Gunaratne are likely to be the two in the running for the seamer's berth and skipper Chandana and left-armer Rangana Herath for the spinners.

Liyanage and off-spinner Muthumudalige Pushpakumara will have to await their fate until the morning of the match.

SRI LANKA 'A' (from):

Upul Chandana (captain), Avishka Gunawardana, Upekha Fernando, Michael Vandort, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chamara Silva, Prasanna Jayawardene, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Ruchira Perera, Rangana Herath, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Dulip Liyanage, Ian Daniel, Gayan Wijekoon.

KENYA (from):

Maurice Odumbe (captain), Kennedy Otieno, Ravindu Shah, Steve Tikolo, Hitesh Modi, Otieno Suji, Collins Obuya, Lamech Onyango, Martin Suji, Brijal Patel, Joseph Angara, Josephat Sorengo, David Obuya, Thomas Odoyo, Mohammad Sheikh.


Gamini Silva and D.A.S. Dissanayake, Match Referee : Ranjith Madurasinghe.