Sri Lanka’s stand-in Test captain Dinesh Chandimal implored his team to follow England’s lead as they look to square the two-Test series and end a peculiar losing streak at home against the English.
The hosts have lost their last five home Tests against England and defeat in the second Test, which starts at the Galle International Stadium today, will see Sri Lanka lose consecutive Tests in Galle for the first time.
Sri Lanka are likely to make two changes to the team that lost the first Test by seven wickets – a defeat that gave England their fifth straight win in Sri Lanka – with Oshada Fernando tipped to replace Kusal Mendis and all-rounder Ramesh Mendis set to debut in place of Wanindu Hasaranga.
Chandimal cited England’s depth in preparation as a reason for their success in conditions that they have traditionally struggled in, and called on his team to execute in the right situation, just as the English had done.
“They have done really well in the last five Tests they have played in Sri Lanka. Credit goes to the players and the management, they have done their best and have planned well. Also when the situation comes everyone in the team executes that plan really well. That’s been the secret behind their team’s success. Sri Lanka is not an easy place to win Tests. We don't want to give excuses and as a team we want to do well in this game. We have planned well, so if we can execute it when the situation comes, we’ll have a good result,” he said at a pre-match virtual press conference.
Chandimal said Sri Lanka’s batsmen failed to mentally adjust to conditions in Sri Lanka in the first Test, as they were bowled out a record-low score of 135 in the first innings, but was happy with the performance in the second innings.
“Coming from South Africa, we had only had two days of preparations. We lost the first Test because of the mistakes we made in the first innings and I think our batsmen were in the same mind frame as they were in South Africa. I think that was the biggest mistake we made. The main plus point is that when conditions were at their most challenging in Galle, we batted well and scored 300 runs. It means we adjusted quickly. I think we need to remember that we should reduce the number of wickets we lose to spinners,” Chandimal opined.
Speaking on changes his team could make for the second Test, Chandimal said Fernando will slot in for Kusal Mendis, who was released from the squad earlier this week, with Ramesh Mendis likely to play as a spinning all-rounder.
A consistent performer in domestic cricket, with a first-class batting average of 43.46 and 83 wickets in 45 matches, Mendis was the sixth highest run scorer in Sri Lanka’s most recent Premier League tournament, and was one of only two batsmen – the other being Chandimal – to score a triple century.
Chandimal also hinted at playing six batsmen, a spinning all-rounder and four front-line bowlers, which could mean Suranga Lakmal coming in for Dasun Shanaka.
England captain Joe Root meanwhile, said his team could further improve to seal a series whitewash.
“Sri Lanka are a proud team and have a great record at this ground so we have to play smart cricket again. We can't be happy with what we have achieved on this trip so far, we need to get better,” Root said.
“We can't get ahead of ourselves and think we're something were not. This will not be an easy game, we will have to play some good stuff for five days if we want to keep taking steps forward as a team.”