It will be a test of strength hinging on a mixture of youth and experience when Sri Lanka and Australia clash tomorrow in the first of two tests at the Galle International Stadium. On an opening day of the windy sea side venue that will carry a nostalgic air in a test match dedicated to the memory of Australian legend Shane Warne, who died of a sudden heart attack in March this year, the two sides will lock horns on the track where the Aussie spin great spun his way to becoming the first bowler in test cricket history to claim a landmark 500 wickets.
(PARA 2) In a far fling from when the two sides last met in a home series in 2017 when Sri Lanka was led by Angelo Mathews that the Lankans brushed aside the Australians in an emphatic series triumph, this time around it is Mathews’ former school mate Dimuth Karunaratne wearing the big mantle. The veteran former captain is there as well solid in experience and looking good with the bat following a back to form century against the Indians in their terrain.
In that old vanguard it is significant that Kusal Mendis, who was Australia’s tormentor with the bat highlighted by a near double century, is also very much in good nick following his Player of the Series performance in Sri Lanka’s 3-2 ODI series triumph a fortnight ago. While Skipper Karunaratne is well insulated in the leadership for a superb batting record counting 13 Test tons, also to good measure is the inform Dhananjaya de Silva who broke into the game against the Aussies back home last time, and matured all-round talent since then. Of the young flock, adding depth to the batting is Pathum Nissanka of debut century stuff around which the right-hander has built a solid reputation.
Another new find is Oshada Fernando who has shown great promise while former captain Dinesh Chandimal is back following the hiccup of losing his place few years ago on the leverage of a potential run grafter. On a track where spin has been a swaying factor Sri Lanka possesses formidable talent in Lasith Embuldeniya, Jeffrey Vandersay and Praveen Jayawickrama while on the pace front Asitha Fernando has proved to be an under-19 discovery. Adding impetus is Chamika Karunaratne along with Kasun Rajitha.
Australia is powered by the experienced opening batsman David Warner and star batsman Steve Smith in a mainly young cast with selector faith placed in pace bowling captain Pat Cummins who was among the wickets in the recent ODIs. Smith, who missed the last few ODIs through injury as well as pace bowler Mitchell Starc should be back in action while Josh Hazelwood adds to quite an awesome Aussie bowling line-up. Nathan Lyon packs experience to the spin department along with Ashton Agar.
SRI LANKA SQUAD: Dinuth Karunaratne (C), Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Chamika Karunaratne, Kasun Rajitha, Asitha Fernando, Ramesh Mendis, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Kumara, Kamil Mishara, Dilshan Madushanka, Kamindu Mendis, Mohamed Shiraz, Shiran Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lakshitha Rasanjana, Suminda Lakshan.
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Pat Cummins (C), Ashton Agar, Scott Borland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazelwood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Mamus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner.