The two key battles as India aim for clean sweep over Sri Lanka in Pallekele

Ashish Peter 11/08/2017
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Hosts Sri Lanka will be hoping for a change in fortunes when they take on an Indian side brimming with confidence in the third and final Test of the series at Pallekele on Saturday.

Virat Kohli’s men have been on top throughout the series and Sri Lanka will be hoping that a lush green pitch at the Pallekele International Stadium can arrest the slide.

With veteran spinner Rangana Herath and pacer Nuwan Pradeep sidelined with injuries, Dinesh Chandimal has a tough task at hand leading a side already short of experience at the highest level.

As the hosts look to avoid a whitewash, we look at the two key battles which could decide the Pallekele Test.

INEXPERIENCE VS EXPERIENCED

With a green pitch on offer from Saturday, the bowling attack which can best utilize the conditions on offer will have a huge say in the outcome of the Test.

Kohli will most likely field Bhuvaneshwar Kumar as his third seamer.

Kohli will most likely field Bhuvaneshwar Kumar as his third seamer.

While India’s Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have looked threatening in spells on flat pitches in Galle and Colombo, they will be buoyed in their hopes of taking bundles of wickets on the lively Pallekele pitch.

The conditions will allow Kohli to unleash the swing and accuracy of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar as the third seam option. With a potent three-seam attack, the visitors will be mighty confident of toppling the Sri Lankan batting order.

The hosts on the other hand will likely be going in with a seam attack which has a combined total of 14 Test appearances between them. Lahiru Kumara will most likely be joined by Vishwa Fernando and Dushmantha Chameera in the pace-attack after Pradeep’s injury.

With such an inexperienced attack, Chandimal will be hoping his new faces can spring a surprise on the much vaunted Indian batting line-up. If they can’t, it could end up as an embarrassing whitewash for the hosts in their own backyard.

TIME FOR SRI LANKA TO BE COUNTED

Centuries from Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne in the second innings of the Colombo Test were the only silver linings for Chandimal’s men in a comprehensive innings defeat.

A batting-order still reeling from the departures of legends like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene will need to step up their game to give Sri Lanka any chance of taking the game to the Indians.

Mendis has continued to build on his initial promise and the fact that his highest Test score of 176 came at Pallekele bodes well for the right-handed batsman. Karunaratne, on the other hand, is the fourth highest run-getter in the calendar year and will look to continue in the same mould.

Mathews and Chandimal will need to step up with their batting.

Mathews and Chandimal will need to step up with their batting.

It is the other experienced batsmen like Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal who will have to add some solidity in the batting after a mixed showing so far in the series.

If the older heads in the Sri Lankan dressing room can contribute in a more meaningful way, we might have an even game on our hands as the Indian batting-lineup continues to pile up the runs.

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Sri Lanka name 15-man squad for third and final Test against India

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Sri Lanka on Thursday named a 15-man squad led by Dinesh Chandimal for the third Test against India, which has taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

Selectors said right-arm fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage were brought into the squad in place of injured Nuwan Pradeep and Rangana Herath.

The hosts will be trying to avoid a whitewash by India at the match starting at Pallekele on Saturday.

SRI LANKA SQUAD

Dinesh Chandimal (captain)

Angelo Mathews

Upul Tharanga

Dimuth Karunaratne

Niroshan Dickwella

Kusal Mendis

Dananjaya de Silva

Lahiru Kumara

Vishwa Fernando

Dushmantha Chameera

Lahiru Gamage

Dilruwan Perera

Malinda Pushpakumara

Lakshan Sandakan

Lahiru Thirimanne.

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Mark Stoneman the latest in revolving door of Alastair Cook's opening Test partners since Andrew Strauss retirement

Sport360 staff 10/08/2017
Cook has remained the one constant in England's opening pair ever since Strauss' retirement.

Mark Stoneman is the latest man entrusted with partnering Alastair Cook at the top of the England batting order.

Stoneman, when he faces the West Indies next week, will be the 13th opener other than Cook used since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.

Here, we assesses how each has fared.

NICK COMPTON

18 innings, 498 runs at an average of 31.12, 1x50, 2x100, top score 117 Despite back-to-back centuries against New Zealand in 2013, Compton failed to firmly establish himself.

JOE ROOT

11 innings, 417 runs at 41.70, 2x50, 1x100, top score 180 A short-lived experiment for the home Ashes series in 2013 produced one brilliant innings but little else of substance. Stepped up once more to open in November 2016 with Haseeb Hameed injured.

MICHAEL CARBERRY

10 innings, 281 runs at 28.10, 1x50, 0x100, top score 60 Recalled aged 33 for the whitewash Ashes defeat in 2013-14. Third in England's averages with one half-century and three scores in the 40s, but became a fall guy.

SAM ROBSON

11 innings, 336 runs at 30.54, 1x50, 1x100, top score 127 Played throughout the summer of 2014 but hit his only century in his second Test at Headingley before problems around off-stump appeared to cost him.

JONATHAN TROTT

6 innings, 72 runs at 12.00, 1x50, 0x100, top score 59 Back in first-class cricket after stress-related problems, Trott returned in an unaccustomed position against the West Indies and made one half-century but five other scores under 10, including three ducks.

ADAM LYTH

13 innings, 265 runs at 20.38, 0x50, 1x100, top score 107 Made his sole hundred on his home ground of Headingley but had a top score of just 19 in his last eight attempts. An Ashes winner, but now a forgotten man for England.

MOEEN ALI

6 innings, 84 runs at 14.00, 0x50, 0x100, top score 35 After a failed experiment as a pinch-hitter against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, Moeen has settled back into his niche as England's spin-bowling all-rounder.

JOS BUTTLER

1 innings, 4 runs at 4.00, 0x50, 0x100, top score 4 England doubled down on top-order aggression against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in October 2015, for a brisk chase of 98 in failing light. Cook was unused in a plucky 74 for four in 11 overs.

ALEX HALES

21 innings, 573 runs at 27.28, 5x50, 0x100, top score 94 England banked on Hales' limited-overs shot-making working out in Tests but instead he occasionally retreated into extreme caution. Failed to convert his five half-centuries and has returned to just white-ball duty.

BEN DUCKETT

4 innings, 92 runs at 23.00, 1x50, 0x100, top score 56 Made one half-century in four innings against Bangladesh, and dropped to number four against India before being jettisoned altogether.

HASEEB HAMEED

5 innings, 160 runs at 32.00, 1x50, 0x100, top score 82 Looked better than his figures suggest and it was injury that cost him his place, but a dreadful early summer with Lancashire kept him on the outside looking in.

KEATON JENNINGS

12 innings, 294 runs at 24.50, 1x50, 1x100, top score 112 The Durham batsman made a century and a duck on his Test debut but has struggled since.

TOTAL (all openers other than Alastair Cook )

118 innings, 3,076 runs at 26.75, 14x50, 6x100, top score 180

ALASTAIR COOK

114 innings, 4,721 runs at 43.31, 26x50, 10x100, top score 263 *Figures refer only to innings as an opener since Strauss' retirement. *Includes two innings in which England's opening partnership did not feature Cook - Moeen and Buttler v Pakistan ( Abu Dhabi 2015) and Hales and Compton v Sri Lanka (Lord's 2016).

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