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Dimuth Karunaratne expects stiff challenge for Sri Lanka's batsmen in West Indies Tests

"The West Indies pace attack is a really good one, and they know how to move the Dukes ball"

Dimuth Karunaratne wants his side to target "275 or 300 runs" in their innings to challenge West Indies  •  AFP

Dimuth Karunaratne wants his side to target "275 or 300 runs" in their innings to challenge West Indies  •  AFP

West Indies have a good pace attack, and the pitch looks difficult, but get in and get us more than 275 - so goes Dimuth Karunaratne's directive to Sri Lanka's batsmen ahead of the first Test in Antigua.
Sri Lanka have struggled with the bat in their last four Tests, failing to make 200 in four of their eight innings. The most abject batting displays were at home against England in January - the most recent series they played - where Sri Lanka were all out for 135 in their first innings of the series, and 126 in their last.
"The West Indies pace attack is a really good one, and they know how to move the Dukes ball," Karunaratne said. "We think we need at least 275 or 300 runs to stay in the series. That's not easy, but we've talked about how we can do that. If we can get that kind of score on the board, our fast bowlers can defend it and we'll be in the game."
This batting order is likely to be significantly different from the one seen in the England series, however. Karunaratne himself is back, for one, having missed the last series due to a finger injury. Also returning is Dhananjaya de Silva, who had been out because of a muscle tear in the thigh. Angelo Mathews' absence also likely opens the door for Pathum Nissanka - the standout batsman in Sri Lanka's domestic cricket over the last few seasons.
What may worry Sri Lanka is their modest batting performance in the two-day practice game, where they were all out for 172 inside 50 overs. Only Oshada Fernando and Dinesh Chandimal managed scores of 40 or higher in that game.
"The pitches here are difficult, especially when you bat first," Karunaratne said. "There's swing and there's also a tendency for it to stop on the pitch. We're also playing against the Dukes ball for the first time in a while, and we haven't had a lot of practice because we played the one-day matches one after the other, and then only had one day off before we got back into a tight training schedule. We had one day to train and went straight into the practice match.
"It's not going to be easy for batsmen to score big runs here. They'll have to work hard. The Duke ball swings and seams all the time."
Karunaratne believes that having faced Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel - who will both likely be in the West Indies Test XI - could be an advantage in the series proper, however.
"We learned a lot in the practice game though, because it's two of the same bowlers who played in that game that will play in the Tests. We got some idea about how they bowl and the kinds of angles they used. I think in the second innings we had fixed some of our issues and we batted well. We'll have to make sure our batting line up is solid given the strength of their attack."
Sri Lanka's own fast-bowling attack will be without Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha, who had each contributed to Sri Lanka's victory in Barbados last time they toured the Caribbean (Kumara tested positive for Covid-19 and Rajitha has been out of action since picking up an injury in December). They will, however, have Dushmantha Chameera, who bowled consistently in the mid 140-kph range during the limited-overs series.
"We rested Dushmantha in the last ODI and in the practice match because we will ask a lot from him in the Tests. Not only is the pitch good for quicks, we'll also need a bit of extra pace, and of the bowlers in the squad right now, Dushmantha is the guy who has that. We'll probably have Suranga Lakmal and Vishwa Fernando as well."

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