Preview: Virat Kohli and his troops will march out in the picturesque Pallekele Stadium in a bid to secure a first-ever 3-0 whitewash on Sri Lankan shores, while the Dinesh Chandimal-led side's most immediate objective will be to take the third Test match into the fifth day. The match begins on 12 August in Kandy.
After being on the receiving end of two severe drubbings in Galle (lost by 334 runs) and Colombo (lost by an innings and 53 runs), Sri Lanka appear more depleted than one thought. The host’s chances are worsened by the numerous injuries that occurred during the ongoing series. The latest omission of players include opener Danushka Gunathilaka (dropped) and the ace spinner Rangana Herath (back injury).
Barring the law of averages, nothing stands between India and a clean sweep in the series. Even if India activate a self-destruct mode, it still seems highly unrealistic to think that the Islanders will be able to halt India’s rampage.
With the exception of India’s number 10 and 11, the rest of the batsmen have registered at least a half-century on this tour ie in three innings (also, India declared for 240/3 in the 2nd innings of the 1st Test). Openers KL Rahul and Abhinav Mukund have played one Test each and are the only two frontline batsmen who have missed out on scoring a century.
How else would you explain 1,462 runs for just 22 wickets in the series for the visitors? This has cost Lanka nearly 67 runs per wicket.
If there has been any silver lining in what would one call a disastrous series for the home side, it would be the second wicket stand for 191 runs between Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis on Day 3 of the 2nd Test. The pair used the sweep shot to a tremendous effect in order to blunt out any threat the Indian spinners possessed. Subsequently, the duo went on to score their respective tons in the 2nd innings.
It is time for the senior pros in Angelo Mathews and captain Chandimal to unfurl their A game to inspire the languishing Lankan side; they need to draw inspiration from how Karunaratne and Mendis applied themselves to grind it out against the top Test side.
Sri Lanka can also look back at how they chased down an improbable 390 against Zimbabwe last month and beat the Indian ODI side by chasing down 321 runs in the Champions Trophy. Although the moments are few and far between, and current form doesn't give the home side a real chance against the formidable Indian outfit, who seemed to be the world beaters now, it is important for the senior pros to stand up and show some fight not for others but their own young turks, especially as this transitioning Lankan side will participate in other future international ventures.
The injuries for Sri Lanka and one-match suspension handed out to Ravindra Jadeja for India will force a few changes in the side. Sri Lanka have called up Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Gamage for the 3rd Test. We might get a chance to see both teams play left-arm chinamen in Lakshan Sandakan for the Lankans and Kuldeep Yadav for India, who will be playing his first Test outside India. India’s Axar Patel has also flown to Sri Lanka to join the squad, but he is likely to remain as cover for Yadav.