Both players missed out on Sri Lanka’s last Test series in South Africa, Mathews due to injury and Chandimal due to poor form. Chandimal also lost the Test captaincy to Dimuth Karunaratne who went onto create history by becoming the first captain from the subcontinent to win a series 2-0 in South Africa.
While Mathews’ place in the batting line up at four seems assured, Chandimal will have to fight it out with Niroshan Dickwella for the wicket-keeper’s berth. Kusal Perera who kept wickets in the ODIs will play purely as a batsman.
Since being left out of the South African tour Chandimal has not played much cricket except taking part in a private T20 tournament in Canada recently but he has experience on his side.
Dickwella after being dropped from the World Cup has toured India with the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team and scored centuries in both formats four-day and limited-overs.
“The captain will have to take a call on whom he wants to play,” said chief selector Ashantha de Mel.
Sri Lanka are unlikely to tamper with the opening pair from the South African series and will go with Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne with Oshada Fernando who batted with success in South Africa standing by as the third opener. Thirimanne in fact turned 30 yesterday.
In fact Fernando took Mathews’ place in South Africa and distinguished himself in the number three position scoring an unbeaten 75 out of a match-winning partnership of 163 with Kusal Mendis in the second Test at Port Elizabeth. However with Mathews’ return he will be hard-pressed to retain his place in the team for the New Zealand series.
Thus the batting line-up will read something like this: 1. Karunaratne, 2. Thirimanne, 3. Mendis, 4. Mathews, 5. Kusal Perera, 6. Dhananjaya de Silva, 7. Dickwella or Chandimal.
Even for the four bowling positions too there is a contest. It is likely that Sri Lanka will go with a combination of two fast bowlers and two spinners.
Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara and Vishwa Fernando will compete for the two fast bowlers’ posts. Kumara didn’t tour South Africa due to a hamstring injury and Kasun Rajitha who replaced him bowled quite competently taking nine wickets in the two Tests. However, with Kumara’s return Rajitha finds himself out of the squad. Fernando was Sri Lanka’s leading bowler in South Africa with a haul of 12 wickets.
In the absence of experienced spinner Dilruwan Perera who is injured, the two spinners’ berth will be fought out between Lasith Embuldeniya, Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan. Dananjaya missed the South African Test series as he was remodelling his bowling action after being reported during the England series. Left-arm spinner Embuldeniya who took his place made a memorable Test debut in the first Test at Durban picking up five wickets for 66 and looks like retaining his place leaving the other spot to be fought out between Dananjaya and Sandakan.
The initial 22-member squad was pruned down to 15 for the first Test. The series will be the first for both Sri Lanka and New Zealand in the newly formed ICC World Test Championship.
Black Caps left to cool their heels as rain prevents play
The second day’s play of New Zealand’s 3-day warm-up game against Sri Lanka Cricket President’s XI at FTZ grounds in Katunayake was abandoned without a ball bowled due to rain.
SLC President’s XI batting first made 323 for six wickets on the first day. Today is the final day of the match.