Kandy: Both teams have lost an influential spinner - Ravindra Jadeja and Rangana Herath - but India still appear to have all bases covered on a green Pallekele surface
No sooner had the Indians officially cancelled their scheduled afternoon practice session at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Friday (August 11) owing to rain, than the sun broke out in all its splendour, subjecting the venue of the third Sri Lanka-India Test to a drenching of a different kind.
The interplay between the sun and the rain has been a conspicuous feature over the last three days, since the teams arrived here with different thoughts on their mind. Virat Kohli’s intrepid side, determined to chart its own destiny, is one win away from its first sweep overseas in a series involving more than two Tests.
Dinesh Chandimal’s boys, handicapped by injuries to key players, are desperate to avoid that same result, their desperation revolving more around hope than conviction.
Sri Lanka called back pacers Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage, but only either of them is going to make the cut. Given Gamage has not featured in the longest format yet, Chameera is likely to get a nod for his prior experience.
India called Akshar Patel to replace the banned Jadeja. With Kuldeep already itching to start in the XI, Akshar will have to wait for his debut. Otherwise, the No. 1 team need no changes.
In all likelihood, that should be Kuldeep Yadav ,the 22-year-old left-arm wrist spinner primed for a second Test appearance, though it will also depend on what approach India takes into the game.
On Friday morning, the Pallekele strip was almost indistinguishable from the lush-green square, suggesting that, without Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka would place all its optimism eggs in the pace-bowling basket.
However, once Sanath Jayasuriya, the chairman of selectors, wended his way to the middle for a chat with Godfrey Dabare, the curator, and triggered a flurry of activity, things began to unravel drastically.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lakshan Sandakan and Lahiru Gamage.
India: Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Abhinav Mukund, Rohit Sharma and Axar Patel.
Pitch and conditions
Pallekele naturally affords quick bowlers a degree of pace and bounce, and the colour of the pitch on the eve of the match suggested there would be seam movement for the first two days as well. This ground is one of the wettest venues on the planet, however, so expect rain to hold up play at some point.
Stats and trivia
August 12-16, 2017
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)