Battered Sri Lanka face uphill task against mighty India

Match facts

Venue: Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), Colombo
Date and time: August 3-7, 10:00 IST

The main picture

Hosts Sri Lanka were good only in patches in Galle and soon will have found out that playing well for short periods won’t cut it against this Indian side. As an opponent, the pressure on you is consistent, be with the bat or the ball, and you need to have the firepower and also play well for the length of a Test match.

Australia, despite producing good bowling and batting performances and dominating India for about two-and-a-half days of the Bangalore Test in March, ended up losing the same. And in Dharamsala too, they fell away after being provided a rollicking start by Steve Smith and David Warner in the first innings on day one. All thanks to India’s bowling firepower and the wicket-taking threat carried by the Ravichandran Ashwins, Ravindra Jadejas and Kuldeep Yadavs.

The Lankan Lions did have a few positives coming out of the 304-run loss: Nuwan Pradeep stood out with the ball in the first innings (6/132) and at a time when pretty much every other bowler struggled; Dilruwan Perera rendered solidity batting at No. 7, where he scored 113 runs in two innings (92* and 21*) and was unbeaten, and Dimuth Karunaratne played a technically sound and spirited knock of 97 in Sri Lanka’s second innings. If the hosts are to bounce back at the SSC and attain parity in this three-Test series, they not only need the troika aforementioned to continue their good work but also the likes of Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis and Lahiru Kumara, among others, to produce big scores and wickets.

Stat: Sri Lanka have never won or drawn a Test series home or away against India in which they have trailed or fallen behind.

Shoddy batting and bowling performances from Sri Lanka meant that India didn’t have to stretch themselves. Yes, having won an important toss, they needed to leverage the batsmen-friendly conditions and thereby put themselves in a strong position. But then, they weren’t tested with the bat or the ball by Sri Lanka and the challenge for them going forward is maintaining the overall performance level from Galle or, in the event of the hosts raising their game, rise up to the fresh challenge they are provided.

From a spectator or a supporter’s point of view, you cannot really complain about the way this series has begun and might play out, too. For the gulf in class between these two outfits is massive.

India vs Sri Lanka head-to-head at the SSC, Colombo

The Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo has hosted eight India vs Sri Lanka Tests so far, with the hosts winning two and losing two. Four other Test matches have been drawn.

Team India won here the last time these two teams met in 2015. Cheteshwar Pujara, who is on the verge of playing his 50th Test match and will become the 31st Indian cricketer to do so, scored 145* as an opener. His revival as a Test player began then and here.

Rangana Herath has the third-most number of wickets (73) in Test matches at this venue. Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal boast good individual batting records, with aggregates of 593 runs in twelve innings and 216 runs in four innings, respectively.

Team news and likely playing XI for India and Sri Lanka

For Sri Lanka, their newly-appointed, permanent Test captain is all set to return for the 2nd Test, having recovered from Pneumonia and batted in the nets as well last weekend.

Rangana Herath is fighting to get fit in time for the Test starting this Thursday (August 3), having suffered a left middle finger injury while fielding on the third day in Galle. Sri Lanka’s cricket manager and selector said that Herath’s “finger is pretty sore”. The senior left-arm spinner will, however, be given time until the last minute to prove his fitness, given that he has injured his left middle finger and will have difficulty bowling.

Asela Gunaratne was the other injury casualty from the first Test and Lahiru Thirimanne has been named as his replacement for the second Test match. Lakshan Sandakan is the other addition to the injury-hit squad, which also has Suranga Lakmal unavailable for the SSC Test due to back spasms.

Sri Lanka’s possible playing XI: 1 Dinesh Chandimal (c), 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva/Danushka Gunathilaka, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Rangana Herath/Malinda Pushpakumara/Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Nuwan Pradeep, and 11 Lahiru Kumara

Team India didn’t really have underperformers in Galle and as a result, don’t have to make wholesale changes for the SSC Test match.

Lokesh Rahul joined the Indian camp towards the end of the first Test, after recovering from the flu and is fit to play in Colombo. In which case, Abhinav Mukund might well be the one making way for the Karnataka right-hander despite making 81 in the second innings. Other than this change in personnel, India are unlikely to tinker with their playing XI from the big win in Galle.

India’s playing XI for the 2nd Test: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Lokesh Rahul, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Ravichandran Ashwin, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Hardik Pandya, 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Mohammed Shami, and 11 Umesh Yadav

No. 1-ranked India find themselves in a good space with almost every player in good nick and having no problem delivering. And, unlike in the years gone by, Virat Kohli’s India are no longer over-reliant on any of the two major departments. That’s the reason why opposition teams have to play out of their skins, and probably need some help from India too, to win Test matches.

Sri Lanka showed glimpses of what they are capable of, in Galle: on the second morning, their bowlers came back quite strongly after a poor show on the first day, taking 7/201 and restricting India to 600 in the first innings. The batting line-up, particularly the top order, has to fare a whole lot better and they will hope to too, with Chandimal’s return. The bottom line is, India remain the favourites┬ábut the hosts can be expected to improve on their performance at the Galle International Stadium.

*This piece has been updated after the SL squad for the second Test was named on Tuesday evening.

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