Match Facts

August 3-7, 2017
Start time: 1000 local (0430GMT)

Agarkar: Tough on Abhinav, but he'll have to make way
Agarkar: Tough on Abhinav but he will have to make way

Big Picture

Fourteen overs. That's about as long as Sri Lanka stayed in the contest in Galle. As soon as Shikhar Dhawan's catch went down and Asela Gunaratne left the field, shoulders seemed to drop, bowlers' lines seemed to stray, and India rampaged more or less unhindered for four days.

How Sri Lanka can get themselves into this series without trying something even slightly radical, it is difficult to see. They are strengthened by the return of their captain Dinesh Chandimal, but the balance of the side has been compromised by Gunaratne's absence. A chance then, finally, to play five frontline bowlers? The SSC pitch may be a surface that requires an extra bowler, in any case. Matches there are no longer the bad old borefests of years ago, but at least two-and-a-half days generally still go to the batsmen. In Galle, India had hit their 840 runs at a rate of 4.5 per over, for the loss of only 13 wickets. Sri Lanka can't afford to approach this match with the same bowling strategy.

India have a selection call to make at the top of their order now that KL Rahul is fit again, but are unlikely to favour Abhinav Mukund despite his good second-innings knock in Galle. There, though, lie the extent of their "problems". Having out-batted, out-bowled and out-strategised Sri Lanka (that they out-fielded the hosts goes without saying lately), India appear almost as short of weaknesses as Sri Lanka were of ideas.

Sadly for the hosts, it's also probably too early in the tour for complacency to have begun wrapping its tentacles around India's game. With each of the opposition's top five having scored at least one fifty in the Galle Test, and with all the bowlers having claimed wickets, Sri Lanka need to climb a very tall, very steep, very in-form mountain.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LWLWL (completed matches, most recent first)

In the spotlight

When KL Rahul last came to Sri Lanka, he was a century or nothing batsman, hitting 7, 5, 108, 2, 2 and 2 across his six innings here in 2015. Now, his batting seems to have the opposite personality. In his seven most recent innings, Rahul has made six half-centuries, the best of which was the 90 on a spitting Bangalore track against Australia. In a country that has been notoriously unkind to openers, India have enough faith in Rahul to restore him to the XI, despite having other good options.

Also coming back from illness is Dinesh Chandimal, though he has not quite recovered completely yet - having received special ICC permission to use an inhaler during the game. His has been a fraught captaincy so far. He was appointed only two days before the Zimbabwe Test last month, and is now faced with having to raise morale after what was a difficult Test in Galle. In order to properly claim his position as the captain of this side, Chandimal also needs runs.

Team news

Sri Lanka may play three spinners in this match, with Chandimal issuing strong hints that Malinda Pushpakumara may make an international debut. If they play with only four frontline bowlers, Dinesh Chandimal has hinted that Dhananjaya de Silva is more likely to enter the side ahead of Lahiru Thirimanne, who was selected in the squad 13 months after last playing for Sri Lanka. Danushka Gunathilaka is set to make way for Chandimal.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dhananjaya de Silva, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Malinda Pushpakumara, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

If India believe the pitch will take a lot of turn, left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav becomes a strong contender for the XI. If he plays, Hardik Pandya is likeliest to be displaced.

India: 1 KL Rahul, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), Ajinkya Rahane, 6 R Ashwin, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Mohammed Shami

Pitch and conditions

There is dead grass holding the surface together, but the SSC track looks decidedly drier than the pitch at Galle. Generally though, it takes at least three days for the ball to begin taking sharp turn at this venue. There were five centuries in the most-recent SSC Test. Isolated showers are forecast throughout the Test.

Stats and trivia

  • This will be Cheteshwar Pujara's 50th Test. He has scored hundreds in each of the two Tests he has played in Sri Lanka so far, including at the SSC, where he made 145 not out in 2015.
  • R Ashwin needs 50 more runs to get to 2000 Test runs.
  • Sri Lanka's highest scorer from Galle - Dimuth Karunaratne - is also their highest scorer for the year so far, though by a very slim margin. His 448 runs in 2017 is one more than Kusal Mendis. Both have played the same number of innings.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando