De Silva to captain SL A in unofficial Tests against England Lions

Dhananjaya de Silva did not score a fifty in 14 international innings on the South Africa tour AFP

Dhananjaya de Silva - fresh from a tough tour of South Africa - has been named Sri Lanka A captain for the two unofficial Tests against England Lions, which start from February 17. Test opener Dimuth Karunaratne has also been named in the squad, as well as Sri Lanka's second spinner Dilruwan Perera.

Among those in contention for Test places who have been named in this squad are openers Udara Jayasundera and Ron Chandraguptha, middle-order batsman Roshen Silva, and spinners Jeffrey Vandersay, Amila Aponso and Malinda Pushpakumara.

De Silva had had an excellent start to his Test career in the home series against Australia last year, but now finds himself in the A team after having failed to reach fifty in any of his 14 international innings in South Africa. Though Karunaratne was one of three batsmen to make a half century in the recent Tests, he has also been in modest form in recent months. Since the start of 2016, he has made 578 runs at an average of 27.52.

Perera's inclusion in the A team, however, has little to do with form, and is perhaps an effort to give him some high-quality match practice. Having been excellent during last year's Australia series, Perera did not play in the South Africa Tests where conditions did not suit spin bowlers. He has been effective in the Premier League first-class competition, since his return to Sri Lanka from South Africa, and is almost certain to play some role in the Tests against Bangladesh next month. The England Lions series may simply represent a chance for him to bowl at some high-quality foreign batsmen.

With the incumbent Test openers having scored runs only sporadically over the past year, there will be special interest in the other potential openers in this Sri Lanka A team. Jayasundera, for example, is something of an experienced domestic opener, and has had one stint in the Test team already. There is also substantial buzz about 21-year-old Chandraguptha, who has hit 837 runs at an average of 59.78 in the ongoing Premier League tournament. Nondescripts Cricket Club opener Sandun Weerakkody, who recently played the South Africa ODIs, had also been good in the domestic competition, hitting 530 runs at 53.

Sri Lanka have a settled Test bowling unit at home and, as such, all players like Vandersay, Aponso, Pushpakumara and seamer Kasun Rajitha have to gain is to make themselves viable replacements, should one of the Test incumbents become injured. Pushpakumara, 29, may particularly relish the opportunity to perform at this level, having been one of Sri Lanka's most successful domestic bowlers for several years. He has 537 first-class wickets at an average of 19.92.

The first of the two four-day matches begins in Pallekele on February 17. The action then moves to Dambulla, where the second match is scheduled to start on February 24.