COLOMBO, Nov 24: Tillakaratne Dilshan has returned to bolster Sri Lanka’s batting for the second and final Test against New Zealand starting here on Sunday after recovering from a back injury.
The opener, who missed the first Test in Galle, will replace Dimuth Karunaratne, his skipper Mahela Jayawardene told reporters on the eve of the match at the P. Sara Oval.
The left-handed Karunaratne made his Test debut in Galle and scored an unbeaten half-century in the second innings as the hosts raced to a 10-wicket victory.
“Dilshan is pretty much fit. He batted today and was declared fit to play. Dimuth will make way for Dilshan and Tharanga [Paranavitana] will open with Dilshan,” said Jayawardene.
“With Dilshan coming into the side, we have an additional bowling option as well. We wouldn’t have taken any risks with him, but he is very comfortable and wants to play and get himself back into things.”
Dilshan, who has so far scored 5,028 runs in 81 Tests, is also a part-time spinner.
Sri Lanka owed their victory in Galle to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who grabbed 11 wickets for his second haul of 10 or more wickets in a match this year.
“The way he [Herath] is bowling right now he is going to be a big factor. Any bowler who takes 10-wicket hauls in Test cricket will create a few problems for the opposition and we need to try and ride on that,” said Jayawardene. “But we can’t rely just on Rangana and I was quite happy with the way the other three bowlers [Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Suraj Randiv] bowled at Galle and with the pressure and the opportunities they created.
“We are not complacent after Galle. The New Zealanders will come hard at us and we need to improve on what we did in Galle.”
New Zealand have lost five successive Tests this year, including two each in the West Indies and India, but skipper Ross Taylor said his team would try their best to end the losing streak.
“It’s a disappointing run so far and we just want to put on a good performance for the public, fans and ourselves. We know we are far from our best at the moment,” said Taylor. “Tomorrow’s another opportunity to change that and get on a bit of momentum.”
New Zealand’s worst run came between January 1954 and October 1955 when they lost six Tests in a row.
Taylor said his team needed to raise their batting performance, especially against spin, after scoring just 221 in the first innings and 118 in the second in Galle.
“We can’t just focus on him [Herath] as there are other quality bowlers... It’s important for batsmen to know and trust their plans,” said Taylor.
The New Zealand skipper said he was hopeful key paceman Tim Southee would recover from a thigh strain.
“Southee’s progressed well and is looking good to play, but we’ll have the final assessment in the morning,” said Taylor.
Southee was the most impressive New Zealand bowler in the last match, taking four quick wickets in the first innings to put the hosts under pressure.
New Zealand have named the same 11 that lost in Galle, plus uncapped leg-spinner Todd Astle, and will make a decision on the final make-up of the side on Sunday morning.
“Todd has had a lot of success in New Zealand and is not far from being a genuine all-rounder,” said Taylor.
“He started off as a batsman and part-time spinner and he has worked hard on his bowling and turned himself into a decent spinner.
“He has fitted into the group very well, has got a good work ethic, trains hard and has come into the reckoning.”
SRI LANKA: Tharanga Paranavitana, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Thilan Samaraweera, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Prasanna Jayawardene, Suraj Randiv, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Chanaka Welegedara, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Tharindu Kaushal.
NEW ZEALAND: Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor (captain), Daniel Flynn, James Franklin, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Todd Astle.
Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) and Nigel Llong (England). TV umpire: Ruchira Palliyaguruge (Sri Lanka). Match referee: Javagal Srinath (India).—Agencies