Veteran Herath returns to favourite hunting ground as host eyes rare series win against No. 1-ranked Test side
Angelo Mathews’ Sri Lankan squad, filled with colts, veterans and all in between, heads into the second Test against Australia in Galle, beginning on Thursday (August 4), knowing it has a chance to make history.
It’s been 17 years since Sri Lanka won its only Test series against Australia, but with Rangana Herath returning to his favourite stomping ground, it will be quietly hopeful of an encore. Sri Lanka’s only previous series victory over Australia was in 1999, a 1-0 triumph in a three-match contest in which Herath made his debut.
Herath had match figures of 9 for 103 in the first Test in Pallekele last weekend, helping Sri Lanka to a 106-run win after Kusal Mendis had initiated the fightback with his maiden Test hundred. Furthermore, Herath has a formidable record in Galle, where he took 10 wickets in his last outing, against the West Indies in November, and had run through the Indian line-up a couple of months earlier with 7 for 48 in the second innings.
Mathews said the 38-year-old Herath had once again "proved his brilliance" in the first Test. “This is a very good opportunity for us," said Mathews. “We are ranked No. 7 in the ICC rankings and Australia are No. 1. We need to play well in Galle to seal the series.”
However, Sri Lanka might be forced to make a change to its already inexperienced bowling attack after Nuwan Pradeep, the paceman, suffered a hamstring strain during training on Monday. Pradeep was to undergo a fitness to ascertain his availability for this game.
With Suranga Lakmal also yet to recover from a hamstring strain, the host will be forced to pick between the uncapped duo of Vishwa Fernando and Asitha Fernando should Pradeep be ruled out. That will leave Herath as the only specialist bowler in the XI to have featured in more than 10 Test matches.
Australia, meanwhile, will make at least one change after Steve O'Keefe, the left-arm spinner, was forced to fly home after pulling his hamstring during the Pallekele loss. Jon Holland, the uncapped left-arm spinner, has been called up as replacement.
"He's tall, he's got good shape on the ball, he bowls at a decent pace. I'm sure he'll have success here," said Darren Lehmann, the coach, about Holland, the 29-year-old from Victoria.
Herath will hope to prey on Australia’s problems with the bat. Australia is expected to stick to the same batting line-up but will need its top order to fire after no one apart from skipper Steve Smith passed 50 in Pallekele. Adam Voges, Joe Burns and Mitchell Marsh all couldn’t build on starts as Australia squandered an 86-run first-innings lead, while David Warner – back after six weeks out with a broken finger – registered scores of nought and one.
Australia's last outing to the sub-continent saw it lose all four Tests against India in 2013. It also lost both matches when Pakistan hosted it for a two-Test series in 2014 in the United Arab Emirates.
"We have got to find our plans and find ways to play in these conditions... (We) have to turn it around quickly," said Smith.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal.
Australia: Steve Smith (capt), Jackson Bird, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Jon Holland.