Asitha Fernando and Minod Bhanuka were handed their Test debuts by Sri Lanka on Sunday, 3 January, the duo being named in the XI to face South Africa in the second Test in Johannesburg.
Bhanuka and Fernando earned Test caps number 152 and 153 for Sri Lanka, and the visitors will hope the influx of youth will help improve on their display in the first Test of the series, in which they were beaten by an innings and 45 runs.
Below, we look at how Bhanuka and Fernando reached the world stage.
Fernando is a right-arm medium pace bowler, who has been on the Sri Lanka national team radar since 2016, when he came through the ranks as a player of high potential.
Fernando caught the eye during the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 in Bangladesh, where he was Sri Lanka’s top wicket-taker. In six matches at the tournament, Fernando took 11 wickets, at a fine average of 16.45, and best figures of 4/43.
A first-class debut soon followed, when he was included in the Sri Lanka A team that took on Pakistan A at Leicester later in 2016. Continuing his upward trajectory, Fernando starred in that clash – he claimed seven wickets against a side that included the likes of Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman and Sharjeel Khan. Five of his wickets came in the second innings, when he returned 5/33, including the wicket of Azam, to help Sri Lanka A to a 33-run victory.
A year later, he made his ODI debut, against Zimbabwe at Hambantota, but struggled, bowling two expensive overs in a rain-curtailed encounter. He has since failed to make an international XI till date, although he did earn call-ups frequently as a squad option.
He was part of the Galle Gladiators side in the Lanka Premier League 2020, and took four wickets in as many matches for the side.
Bhanuka is a left-hand wicketkeeper-batsman who racked up runs at the domestic level for half a decade before graduating to the national team in 2019.
Bhanuka made his limited-overs debut for Sri Lanka on the tour of Pakistan in October 2019. He played an ODI and two T20Is, and while he didn’t get a chance to bat much in the shorter format – he faced just the one ball in his two matches – he did score a steady 36 in the ODI, to prevent a slide.
Bhanuka had to wait over a year thereafter to make his next international appearance – the ongoing Test against South Africa – but his record in domestic cricket shows why the Sri Lanka management placed the faith in the 25-year-old.
In 54 first-class matches, Bhanuka averages just under 45, having racked up 3,530 runs including 11 centuries. A first-class strike-rate north of 70 gives a glimpse into his attacking nature with the bat, and he was a big figure for the Jaffna Stallions at the 2020 Lanka Premier League, scoring a 26-ball 40 for the side against Galle Gladiators in one outing.
Bhanuka came through the Sri Lanka youth ranks, and represented the side in two matches at the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 in the United Arab Emirates.
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