India will have to end a run of nine Test matches without a victory if they are to prevent Sri Lanka legend Kumar Sangakarra bidding farewell to the international stage by helping his country to a series win. Sri Lanka mounted a stunning fight back to clinch the opening contest between the sides in Galle last week and now have the opportunity to seal victory in the three-match series in the second test in Colombo, beginning Thursday.
Regardless of what happens on the pitch, the match will draw plenty of attention as 37-year-old Sangakkara bows out after a career that has seen him amass more than 12,000 runs to rank fifth on the all-time list. Of the 40 top run scorers in Test history, only the West Indies’ Garry Sobers has recorded a better average than Sangakkara’s 57.71.
“It’s going to be an emotional game for all of us as a great of Sri Lanka cricket, a great servant for the team, and a great human being is saying goodbye,” current Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said, according to The Indian Express.
“The best we could do is try and win the game so that we win the series. That will be the best farewell for him. We are trying our best to do that. The boys are all well prepared. We trained extremely hard in the past two days, even though it rained on Tuesday, on all aspects of the game and we are ready to go.”
In the opening Test, Sri Lanka managed to prevail despite Sangakkara failing to improve on his average. India appeared to be heading for a rare Test win on the road when bowling Sri Lanka out for just 183 in the first innings and posting a respectable 375 in response. But despite going into their second innings requiring an eminently achievable total of only 153 to get their first Test win since winning the second Test in England over a year ago, India were bowled out for just 112.
The collapse exposed India’s batting struggles, particularly against spin, with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath taking seven wickets. And it could lead to a shakeup of India’s lineup. Having stuck with his preference for five bowlers in Galle, captain Virat Kohli has strongly hinted that all-rounder Stuart Binny could be in line to start after being added to the squad.
“We got Stuart here because his bowling gives us the balance and at number six his batting can be handy” he said of Binny, reports Reuters. “You can keep him for later on in the innings to give you control or... if the wicket is helpful, with the new ball, why not?
“It's all about how you use him, as attacking option or as defensive option in the middle as it gives other bowlers rest. It really depends on how the wicket behaves but I'm sure he can do both jobs.”
India’s team will definitely feature at least one change, with Shikhar Dhawan being ruled out of the rest of the series after fracturing his hand. Fortunately Murali Vijay, who had been India’s most consistent batsmen over the past 14 months before missing the opening Test with a hamstring injury, could be fit to return and take Dhawan’s place at the top of the order.
“Today's practice session is important, we would know if he is 100 percent fit to play,” Kohli said on Wednesday. “His rehab is going well... Hopefully he is fully fit. If he wants to play and is keen, I'm sure he can go through the little discomforts he might have. We will have to take a call but we are pretty certain he is going to make it tomorrow.”
Sri Lanka have their own fitness concerns heading to the P Sara Oval in the country’s capital. Fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep, who took three wickets in the first Test, is a major doubt with a hamstring injury and could be replaced by Dushmantha Chameera.
Second Test schedule: Wednesday Aug. 20 – Saturday Aug. 24, beginning at 12:30 a.m. each day.
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