Sri Lanka’s Dhananjaya de Silva will return to the team after recovering from COVID-19, skipper Dimuth Karunaratne said Friday ahead of the first Test against Pakistan.
The two-match series starts on Saturday in Galle, where the hosts first lost to and then hammered Australia in recent weeks.
They will be bolstered by the return of de Silva, a batting all-rounder who was one of four players to get the virus before and during the second Test against Australia.
De Silva replaces Kamindu Mendis, who made an impressive 61 on debut in the previous match.
“Oshada Fernando will open the innings with me. Dhananjaya De Silva takes his place back and we’ll have to look again who is batting at five and six,” Karunaratne said.
"I mean Dhananjaya or (Dinesh) Chandimal. Because Chandi is in good form after playing at number five."
Chandimal hit an unbeaten 206 before left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya returned a match haul of 12 wickets on debut as the hosts beat Australia by an innings and 39 runs to end the series level at 1-1.
Dangerous bowling order
Pakistan, led by Babar Azam, boast a dangerous bowling attack led by ace quick Shaheen Shah Afridi and have brought back veteran spinner Yasir Shah on tracks that are expected to spin.
“They’re a different team. Good against spin as well,” Karunaratne said of his opposition.
“Previously, they have done pretty good in the Test level. We have to do our basics well if we want to keep them restricted.”
Pakistan lost a home series to Australia in March but edged out Sri Lanka in Tests in their last tour to the island nation in 2015.
Crucial World Test Championship points will be on offer in the series, with Sri Lanka moving to third place after the Australia win and Pakistan at four in the current table.
“It’s good to see that we’re higher up after playing a good series,” said Karunaratne.
“If we can win both Test matches, we have a good chance of playing in the WTC final (next year). But I am trying to play one by one.”
Azam said he expects spin to dominate the matches.
“It is a typical spinning wicket and that’s what we saw in the series against Australia,” said Azam.
“Any team would be difficult at home as they know the conditions,” he added. “They have some experienced spinners in their side, so we are looking forward to play good cricket against them.”
Azam praised the 36-year-old Yasir, who claimed 24 wickets in the team’s previous Test win in Sri Lanka seven years ago, for making a comeback.
“Definitely he has made a good comeback and the way he has prepared and worked on his fitness,” said Azam.
“The way he bowled in Rawalpindi and then in the practice game in Colombo was good. He is an experienced bowler and will be tough for the opposition.”