The last occasion Sri Lanka played at this venue they lost to Bangladesh by four wickets in 2017.
Sri Lanka it seems have a bad habit of winning the first Test of a series at Galle which is their fortress and then coming to the P Sara Oval and losing the next. This trend has continued for some time now and wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella said that it was time Sri Lanka changed it.
“It’s a big challenge. Having won one game, we have a big responsibility to win the series. We have the confidence, but we need to keep making good decisions at crunch moments. If we keep making those decisions, that will have a big outcome on the result,” said Dickwella at the pre-match press conference at the P Sara Oval yesterday.
“We’re not going to sit back. We’re going to go forward and play this game as a usual Test match. We’re not going to think about the fact that we’ve won the last one. That’s all in the past. We know the Test Championship is there, but we can’t think about that when we’re out in the middle.”
What offers the two sides a challenge from Galle is that the P Sara Oval favours the fast bowlers as there is always some grass left on the pitch. At the same time it is also quick and offers batsmen plenty of scoring opportunities if they are prepared to take it.
“It’s a better wicket than Galle there is some grass on it. Even in the last Test we played against Bangladesh a few years ago it was a good wicket. Both teams will make some good runs and it will be a high scoring game,” was how Dickwella assessed the pitch.
Although Sri Lanka won at Galle, there are a few areas they need to improve on.
“Close in fielders, including me, have missed some chances. But those were difficult chances when it comes to taking wickets. You don’t have even seconds to react, but still, we spoke about that. We’re happy to improve on those areas,” said Dickwella.
“In the batting, we were 142 for 2 and 167 for 7 at one stage, so we have to improve on that as well. When it comes to bowling, we need to look at having bowling partnerships. When one bowler is bowling well, from one end, we need to build a partnership from the other end as well,” he said.
Sri Lanka gave a vastly improved batting display in the second innings when they were chasing 268 for victory and Dickwella put that down to the example set by fast bowler Suranga Lakmal with the bat in the first innings where he scored a determined 40 and with Dickwella helped raise the Lankan total by 81 runs.
“Suranga batted really well. He is a fast bowler and a tailender. The way he batted all the batsmen gained confidence because of that innings. This was shown by the opening partnership between Dimuth (Karunaratne) and Thiri (Lahiru Thirimanne) the way they batted in the fourth innings,” said Dickwella.
“The bowlers did a really good job and especially the fielders supported them throughout the whole match and encouraged all the bowlers. It was a great team effort and everyone chipped in.
“The Kusal Janith catch of (Kane) Williamson changed the whole game in the second innings. The support has been immense by the players in the middle. I am very confident and everyone is confident for this Test match.
“We always want to win it was a good win against the no. 2 ranked side. It’s going to be a different game here most probably fast bowlers will come into play. We are more confident than when we started the series,” Dickwella said.
Sri Lanka will most likely be without their off-spinner Akila Dananjaya who has been reported for a suspect bowling action for the second time this year. Although he is still free to play in today’s Test, Sri Lanka would not want to take a chance with him and may prefer to go with the experience of Dilruwan Perera who has recovered from a bad knee injury. That probably could be the only change from the winning side from Galle.